FictionForest

PART EIGHT : Chapter 3

Leo TolstoyAug 26, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Saying good-bye to the princess, Sergey
Ivanovitch was joined by Katavasov; together they
got into a carriage full to overflowing, and the train
started.

At Tsaritsino station the train was
met by a chorus of young men singing “Hail to
Thee!” Again the volunteers bowed and poked
their heads out, but Sergey Ivanovitch paid no attention
to them.  He had had so much to do with the volunteers
that the type was familiar to him and did not interest
him.  Katavasov, whose scientific work had prevented
his having a chance of observing them hitherto, was
very much interested in them and questioned Sergey
Ivanovitch.

Sergey Ivanovitch advised him to go
into the second-class and talk to them himself. 
At the next station Katavasov acted on this suggestion.

At the first stop he moved into the
second-class and made the acquaintance of the volunteers. 
They were sitting in a corner of the carriage, talking
loudly and obviously aware that the attention of the
passengers and Katavasov as he got in was concentrated
upon them.  More loudly than all talked the tall,
hollow-chested young man.  He was unmistakably
tipsy, and was relating some story that had occurred
at his school.  Facing him sat a middle-aged
officer in the Austrian military jacket of the Guards
uniform.  He was listening with a smile to the
hollow-chested youth, and occasionally pulling him
up.  The third, in an artillery uniform, was
sitting on a box beside them.  A fourth was asleep.

Entering into conversation with the
youth, Katavasov learned that he was a wealthy Moscow
merchant who had run through a large fortune before
he was two-and-twenty.  Katavasov did not like
him, because he was unmanly and effeminate and sickly. 
He was obviously convinced, especially now after
drinking, that he was performing a heroic action,
and he bragged of it in the most unpleasant way.

The second, the retired officer, made
an unpleasant impression too upon Katavasov. 
He was, it seemed, a man who had tried everything. 
He had been on a railway, had been a land-steward,
and had started factories, and he talked, quite without
necessity, of all he had done, and used learned expressions
quite inappropriately.

The third, the artilleryman, on the
contrary, struck Katavasov very favorably.  He
was a quiet, modest fellow, unmistakably impressed
by the knowledge of the officer and the heroic self-sacrifice
of the merchant and saying nothing about himself. 
When Katavasov asked him what had impelled him to go
to Servia, he answered modestly: 

“Oh, well, everyone’s
going.  The Servians want help, too.  I’m
sorry for them.”

“Yes, you artillerymen especially
are scarce there,” said Katavasov.

“Oh, I wasn’t long in
the artillery, maybe they’ll put me into the
infantry or the cavalry.”

“Into the infantry when they
need artillery more than anything?” said Katavasov,
fancying from the artilleryman’s apparent age
that he must have reached a fairly high grade.

“I wasn’t long in the
artillery; I’m a cadet retired,” he said,
and he began to explain how he had failed in his examination.

All of this together made a disagreeable
impression on Katavasov, and when the volunteers got
out at a station for a drink, Katavasov would have
liked to compare his unfavorable impression in conversation
with someone.  There was an old man in the carriage,
wearing a military overcoat, who had been listening
all the while to Katavasov’s conversation with
the volunteers.  When they were left alone, Katavasov
addressed him.

“What different positions they
come from, all those fellows who are going off there,”
Katavasov said vaguely, not wishing to express his
own opinion, and at the same time anxious to find out
the old man’s views.

The old man was an officer who had
served on two campaigns.  He knew what makes
a soldier, and judging by the appearance and the talk
of those persons, by the swagger with which they had
recourse to the bottle on the journey, he considered
them poor soldiers.  Moreover, he lived in a
district town, and he was longing to tell how one
soldier had volunteered from his town, a drunkard
and a thief whom no one would employ as a laborer. 
But knowing by experience that in the present condition
of the public temper it was dangerous to express an
opinion opposed to the general one, and especially
to criticize the volunteers unfavorably, he too watched
Katavasov without committing himself.

“Well, men are wanted there,”
he said, laughing with his eyes.  And they fell
to talking of the last war news, and each concealed
from the other his perplexity as to the engagement
expected next day, since the Turks had been beaten,
according to the latest news, at all points. 
And so they parted, neither giving expression to
his opinion.

Katavasov went back to his own carriage,
and with reluctant hypocrisy reported to Sergey Ivanovitch
his observations of the volunteers, from which it
would appear that they were capital fellows.

At a big station at a town the volunteers
were again greeted with shouts and singing, again
men and women with collecting boxes appeared, and
provincial ladies brought bouquets to the volunteers
and followed them into the refreshment room; but all
this was on a much smaller and feebler scale than in
Moscow.

 

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