"There . . . he's puffing again," muttered Tushin to himself, as a small cloud rose from the hill and was borne in a streak to the left by the wind.
"Now look out for the ball . . . we'll throw it back."
"What do you want, your honor?" asked an artilleryman, standing close by, who heard him muttering.
"Nothing . . . only a shell . . ." he answered.
"Come along, our Matvevna!" he said to himself."Matvevna"* was the name his fancy gave to the farthest gun of the battery, which was large and of an old pattern. The French swarming round their guns seemed to him like ants. In that world, the handsome drunkard Number One of the second gun's crew was"uncle"; Tushin looked at him more often than at anyone else and took delight in his every movement. The sound of musketry at the foot of the hill, now diminishing, now increasing, seemed like someone's breathing. He listened intently to the ebb and flow of these sounds.
*Daughter of Matthew.
"Ah! Breathing again, breathing!" he muttered to himself.
He imagined himself as an enormously tall, powerful man who was throwing cannon balls at the French with both hands.
"Now then, Matvevna, dear old lady, don't let me down!" he was saying as he moved from the gun, when a strange, unfamiliar voice called above his head:"Captain Tushin! Captain!"
Tushin turned round in dismay. It was the staff officer who had turned him out of the booth at Grunth. He was shouting in a gasping voice:
"Are you mad? You have twice been ordered to retreat, and you . . ."
"Why are they down on me?" thought Tushin, looking in alarm at his superior.
"I . . . don't . . ." he muttered, holding up two fingers to his cap."I . . ."
But the staff officer did not finish what he wanted to say. A cannon ball, flying close to him, caused him to duck and bend over his horse. He paused, and just as he was about to say something more, another ball stopped him. He turned his horse and galloped off.
"Retire! All to retire!" he shouted from a distance.
The soldiers laughed. A moment later, an adjutant arrived with the same order.
It was Prince Andrew. The first thing he saw on riding up to the space where Tushin's guns were stationed was an unharnessed horse with a broken leg, that lay screaming piteously beside the harnessed horses. Blood was gushing from its leg as from a spring. Among the limbers lay several dead men. One ball after another passed over as he approached and he felt a nervous shudder run down his spine. But the mere thought of being afraid roused him again."I cannot be afraid," thought he, and dismounted slowly among the guns. He delivered the order and did not leave the battery. He decided to have the guns removed from their positions and withdrawn in his presence. Together with Tushin, stepping across the bodies and under a terrible fire from the French, he attended to the removal of the guns.
"A staff officer was here a minute ago, but skipped off," said an artilleryman to Prince Andrew."Not like your honor!"
Prince Andrew said nothing to Tushin. They were both so busy as to seem not to notice one another. When having limbered up the only two cannon that remained uninjured out of the four, they began moving down the hill (one shattered gun and one unicorn were left behind), Prince Andrew rode up to Tushin.
"Well, till we meet again . . ." he said, holding out his hand to Tushin.
"Good-by, my dear fellow," said Tushin."Dear soul! Good-by, my dear fellow!" and for some unknown reason tears suddenly filled his eyes.