War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book III: Chapters 9–19

"But that's the Grand Duke, and I want the commander in chief or the Emperor," said Rostov, and was about to spur his horse.

"Count! Count!" shouted Berg who ran up from the other side as eager as Boris."Count! I am wounded in my right hand" (and he showed his bleeding hand with a handkerchief tied round it)"and I remained at the front. I held my sword in my left hand, Count. All our family — the von Bergs — have been knights!"

He said something more, but Rostov did not wait to hear it and rode away.

Having passed the Guards and traversed an empty space, Rostov, to avoid again getting in front of the first line as he had done when the Horse Guards charged, followed the line of reserves, going far round the place where the hottest musket fire and cannonade were heard. Suddenly he heard musket fire quite close in front of him and behind our troops, where he could never have expected the enemy to be.

"What can it be?" he thought."The enemy in the rear of our army? Impossible!" And suddenly he was seized by a panic of fear for himself and for the issue of the whole battle."But be that what it may," he reflected,"there is no riding round it now. I must look for the commander in chief here, and if all is lost it is for me to perish with the rest."

The foreboding of evil that had suddenly come over Rostov was more and more confirmed the farther he rode into the region behind the village of Pratzen, which was full of troops of all kinds.

"What does it mean? What is it? Whom are they firing at? Who is firing?" Rostov kept asking as he came up to Russian and Austrian soldiers running in confused crowds across his path.

"The devil knows! They've killed everybody! It's all up now!" he was told in Russian, German, and Czech by the crowd of fugitives who understood what was happening as little as he did.

"Kill the Germans!" shouted one.

"May the devil take them — the traitors!"

"Zum Henker diese Russen!"* muttered a German.

*"Hang these Russians!"

Several wounded men passed along the road, and words of abuse, screams, and groans mingled in a general hubbub, then the firing died down. Rostov learned later that Russian and Austrian soldiers had been firing at one another.

"My God! What does it all mean?" thought he."And here, where at any moment the Emperor may see them . . . . But no, these must be only a handful of scoundrels. It will soon be over, it can't be that, it can't be! Only to get past them quicker, quicker!"

The idea of defeat and flight could not enter Rostov's head. Though he saw French cannon and French troops on the Pratzen Heights just where he had been ordered to look for the commander in chief, he could not, did not wish to, believe that.

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