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War And Peace 94

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War And Peace

were to be seen, some flayed, some not, and broken-down carts beside which solitary soldiers sat waiting for something, and again soldiers straggling from their companies, crowds of whom set off to the neighboring villages, or returned from them dragging sheep, fowls, hay, and bulging sacks. At each ascent or descent of the road the crowds were yet denser and the din of shouting more incessant. Soldiers floundering knee-deep in mud pushed the guns and wagons themselves. Whips cracked, hoofs slipped, traces broke, and lungs were strained with shouting. The officers directing the march rode backward and forward between the carts. Their voices were but feebly heard amid the uproar and one saw by their faces that they despaired of the possibility of checking this disorder. "Here is our dear Orthodox Russian army," thought Bolkonski, recalling Bilibins words. Wishing to find out where the commander in chief was, he rode up to a convoy. Directly opposite to him came a strange one-horse vehicle, evidently rigged up by soldiers out of any available materials and looking like something between a cart, a cabriolet, and a caleche. A soldier was driving, and a woman enveloped in shawls sat behind the apron under the leather hood of the vehicle. Prince Andrew rode up and was just putting his question to a soldier when his attention was diverted by the desperate shrieks of the woman in the vehicle. An officer in charge of transport was beating the soldier who was driving the womans vehicle for trying to get ahead of others, and the strokes of his whip fell on the apron of the equipage. The woman screamed piercingly. Seeing Prince Andrew she leaned out from behind the apron and, waving her thin arms from under the woolen shawl, cried: "Mr. Aide-de-camp! Mr. Aide-de-camp!... For heavens sake... Protect me! What will become of us? I am the wife of the doctor of the Seventh Chasseurs.... They wont let us pass, we are left behind and have lost our people..." "Ill flatten you into a pancake!" shouted the angry officer to the soldier. "Turn back with your slut!" "Mr. Aide-de-camp! Help me!... What does it all mean?" screamed the doctors wife. "Kindly let this cart pass. Dont you see its a woman?" said Prince Andrew riding up to the officer. The officer glanced at him, and without replying turned again to the soldier. "Ill teach you to push on!... Back!" "Let them pass, I tell you!" repeated Prince Andrew, compressing his lips. "And who are you?" cried the officer, turning on him with tipsy rage, "who are you? Are you in command here? Eh? I am commander here, not you! Go back or Ill flatten you into a pancake," repeated he. This expression evidently pleased him. "That was a nice snub for the little aide-de-camp," came a voice from behind. Prince Andrew saw that the officer was in that state of senseless, tipsy rage when a man does not know what he is saying. He saw that his championship of the doctors wife in her queer trap might expose him to what he dreaded more than anything in the world--to ridicule; but his instinct urged him on. Before the officer finished his sentence Prince Andrew, his face distorted with fury, rode up to him and raised his riding whip. "Kind...ly let--them--pass!" The officer flourished his arm and hastily rode away. "Its all the fault of these fellows on the staff that theres this disorder," he muttered. "Do as you like." Prince Andrew without lifting his eyes rode hastily away from the doctors wife, who was calling him her deliverer, and recalling with a sense of disgust the minutest details of this humiliating scene he galloped on to the village where he was told that the commander in chief was. On reaching the village he dismounted and went to the nearest house, intending to rest if but for a moment, eat something, and try to sort out the stinging and tormenting thoughts that confused his mind. "This is a mob of scoundrels and not an army," he was thinking as he went up to the window of the first house, when a familiar voice called him by name. He turned round. Nesvitskis handsome face looked out of the little window. Nesvitski, moving his moist lips as he chewed something, and flourishing his arm, called him to enter. "Bolkonski! Bolkonski!... Dont you hear? Eh? Come quick..." he shouted. Entering the house, Prince Andrew saw Nesvitski and another adjutant having something to eat. They hastily turned round to him asking if he had any news. On their familiar faces he read agitation and alarm. This was particularly noticeable

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