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War And Peace 98

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War And Peace

to know his bearings should he be sent to execute an order. The officer on duty, a handsome, elegantly dressed man with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who was fond of speaking French though he spoke it badly, offered to conduct Prince Andrew. On all sides they saw rain-soaked officers with dejected faces who seemed to be seeking something, and soldiers dragging doors, benches, and fencing from the village. "There now, Prince! We cant stop those fellows," said the staff officer pointing to the soldiers. "The officers dont keep them in hand. And there," he pointed to a sutlers tent, "they crowd in and sit. This morning I turned them all out and now look, its full again. I must go there, Prince, and scare them a bit. It wont take a moment." "Yes, lets go in and I will get myself a roll and some cheese," said Prince Andrew who had not yet had time to eat anything. "Why didnt you mention it, Prince? I would have offered you something." They dismounted and entered the tent. Several officers, with flushed and weary faces, were sitting at the table eating and drinking. "Now what does this mean, gentlemen?" said the staff officer, in the reproachful tone of a man who has repeated the same thing more than once. "You know it wont do to leave your posts like this. The prince gave orders that no one should leave his post. Now you, Captain," and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably. "Well, arent you ashamed of yourself, Captain Tushin?" he continued. "One would think that as an artillery officer you would set a good example, yet here you are without your boots! The alarm will be sounded and youll be in a pretty position without your boots!" (The staff officer smiled.) "Kindly return to your posts, gentlemen, all of you, all!" he added in a tone of command. Prince Andrew smiled involuntarily as he looked at the artillery officer Tushin, who silent and smiling, shifting from one stockinged foot to the other, glanced inquiringly with his large, intelligent, kindly eyes from Prince Andrew to the staff officer. "The soldiers say it feels easier without boots," said Captain Tushin smiling shyly in his uncomfortable position, evidently wishing to adopt a jocular tone. But before he had finished he felt that his jest was unacceptable and had not come off. He grew confused. "Kindly return to your posts," said the staff officer trying to preserve his gravity. Prince Andrew glanced again at the artillery officers small figure. There was something peculiar about it, quite unsoldierly, rather comic, but extremely attractive. The staff officer and Prince Andrew mounted their horses and rode on. Having ridden beyond the village, continually meeting and overtaking soldiers and officers of various regiments, they saw on their left some entrenchments being thrown up, the freshly dug clay of which showed up red. Several battalions of soldiers, in their shirt sleeves despite the cold wind, swarmed in these earthworks like a host of white ants; spadefuls of red clay were continually being thrown up from behind the bank by unseen hands. Prince Andrew and the officer rode up, looked at the entrenchment, and went on again. Just behind it they came upon some dozens of soldiers, continually replaced by others, who ran from the entrenchment. They had to hold their noses and put their horses to a trot to escape from the poisoned atmosphere of these latrines. "Voila lagrement des camps, monsieur le Prince,"* said the staff officer. *"This is a pleasure one gets in camp, Prince." They rode up the opposite hill. From there the French could already be seen. Prince Andrew stopped and began examining the position. "Thats our battery," said the staff officer indicating the highest point. "Its in charge of the queer fellow we saw without his boots. You can see everything from there; lets go there, Prince." "Thank you very much, I will go on alone," said Prince Andrew, wishing to rid himself of this staff officers company, "please dont trouble yourself further." The staff officer remained behind and Prince Andrew rode on alone. The farther forward and nearer the enemy he went, the more orderly and cheerful were the troops. The greatest disorder and depression had been in the baggage train he had passed that morning on the Znaim road seven miles away from the French. At Grunth also some apprehension and alarm could be felt, but the nearer Prince Andrew came

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