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War And Peace 80

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War And Peace

the wegiment to and fwo all day. If they mean to fight, lets fight. But the devil knows what this is." "What a dandy you are today!" said Nesvitski, looking at Denisovs new cloak and saddlecloth. Denisov smiled, took out of his sabretache a handkerchief that diffused a smell of perfume, and put it to Nesvitskis nose. "Of course. Im going into action! Ive shaved, bwushed my teeth, and scented myself." The imposing figure of Nesvitski followed by his Cossack, and the determination of Denisov who flourished his sword and shouted frantically, had such an effect that they managed to squeeze through to the farther side of the bridge and stopped the infantry. Beside the bridge Nesvitski found the colonel to whom he had to deliver the order, and having done this he rode back. Having cleared the way Denisov stopped at the end of the bridge. Carelessly holding in his stallion that was neighing and pawing the ground, eager to rejoin its fellows, he watched his squadron draw nearer. Then the clang of hoofs, as of several horses galloping, resounded on the planks of the bridge, and the squadron, officers in front and men four abreast, spread across the bridge and began to emerge on his side of it. The infantry who had been stopped crowded near the bridge in the trampled mud and gazed with that particular feeling of ill-will, estrangement, and ridicule with which troops of different arms usually encounter one another at the clean, smart hussars who moved past them in regular order. "Smart lads! Only fit for a fair!" said one. "What good are they? Theyre led about just for show!" remarked another. "Dont kick up the dust, you infantry!" jested an hussar whose prancing horse had splashed mud over some foot soldiers. "Id like to put you on a two days march with a knapsack! Your fine cords would soon get a bit rubbed," said an infantryman, wiping the mud off his face with his sleeve. "Perched up there, youre more like a bird than a man." "There now, Zikin, they ought to put you on a horse. Youd look fine," said a corporal, chaffing a thin little soldier who bent under the weight of his knapsack. "Take a stick between your legs, thatll suit you for a horse!" the hussar shouted back. CHAPTER VIII The last of the infantry hurriedly crossed the bridge, squeezing together as they approached it as if passing through a funnel. At last the baggage wagons had all crossed, the crush was less, and the last battalion came onto the bridge. Only Denisovs squadron of hussars remained on the farther side of the bridge facing the enemy, who could be seen from the hill on the opposite bank but was not yet visible from the bridge, for the horizon as seen from the valley through which the river flowed was formed by the rising ground only half a mile away. At the foot of the hill lay wasteland over which a few groups of our Cossack scouts were moving. Suddenly on the road at the top of the high ground, artillery and troops in blue uniform were seen. These were the French. A group of Cossack scouts retired down the hill at a trot. All the officers and men of Denisovs squadron, though they tried to talk of other things and to look in other directions, thought only of what was there on the hilltop, and kept constantly looking at the patches appearing on the skyline, which they knew to be the enemys troops. The weather had cleared again since noon and the sun was descending brightly upon the Danube and the dark hills around it. It was calm, and at intervals the bugle calls and the shouts of the enemy could be heard from the hill. There was no one now between the squadron and the enemy except a few scattered skirmishers. An empty space of some seven hundred yards was all that separated them. The enemy ceased firing, and that stern, threatening, inaccessible, and intangible line which separates two hostile armies was all the more clearly felt. "One step beyond that boundary line which resembles the line dividing the living from the dead lies uncertainty, suffering, and death. And what is there? Who is there?--there beyond that field, that tree, that roof lit up by the sun? No one knows, but one wants to know. You fear and yet long to cross that line, and know that sooner or later it must be crossed and you will have to find out what is there, just as you will inevitably

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