Hussar cornet Zherkov had at one time, in Petersburg, belonged to the wild set led by Dolokhov.
Zherkov had met Dolokhov abroad as a private and had not seen fit to recognize him.
Zherkov touched his horse with the spurs; it pranced excitedly from foot to foot uncertain with which to start, then settled down, galloped past the company, and overtook the carriage, still keeping time to the song.
In the corridor he met Nesvitski, with whom he shared a room, and the wag Zherkov; they were as usual laughing.
Just as Prince Andrew met Nesvitski and Zherkov, there came toward them from the other end of the corridor, Strauch, an Austrian general who on Kutuzov's staff in charge of the provisioning of the Russian army, and the member of the Hofkriegsrath who had arrived the previous evening.
There was room enough in the wide corridor for the generals to pass the three officers quite easily, but Zherkov, pushing Nesvitski aside with his arm, said in a breathless voice,
On the face of the wag Zherkov there suddenly appeared a stupid smile of glee which he seemed unable to suppress.
Nesvitski and Zherkov were so surprised by this outburst that they gazed at Bolkonski silently with wide-open eyes.
"I am not jesting with you; please be silent!" cried Bolkonski, and taking Nesvitski's arm he left Zherkov, who did not know what to say.
*(2) Only a hobbledehoy could amuse himself in this way, he added in Russian--but pronouncing the word with a French accent--having noticed that Zherkov could still hear him.
Just then Zherkov entered the room.
The high-shouldered figure of Zherkov, familiar to the Pavlograds as he had but recently left their regiment, rode up to the colonel.
After his dismissal from headquarters Zherkov had not remained in the regiment, saying he was not such a fool as to slave at the front when he could get more rewards by doing nothing on the staff, and had succeeded in attaching himself as an orderly officer to Prince Bagration.
Zherkov was followed by an officer of the suite who rode up to the colonel of hussars with the same order.
The colonel looked silently at the officer of the suite, at the stout staff officer, and at Zherkov, and he frowned.
Meanwhile Nesvitski, Zherkov, and the officer of the suite were standing together out of range of the shots, watching, now the small group of men with yellow shakos, dark-green jackets braided with cord, and blue riding breeches, who were swarming near the bridge, and then at what was approaching in the distance from the opposite side--the blue uniforms and groups with horses, easily recognizable as artillery.
"Ah, your excellency," put in Zherkov, his eyes fixed on the hussars, but still with that naive air that made it impossible to know whether he was speaking in jest or in earnest.
And Denisov rode up to a group that had stopped near Rostov, composed of the colonel, Nesvitski, Zherkov, and the officer from the suite.
Behind Prince Bagration rode an officer of the suite, the prince's personal adjutant, Zherkov, an orderly officer, the staff officer on duty, riding a fine bobtailed horse, and a civilian--an accountant who had asked permission to be present at the battle out of curiosity.
"He wants to see a battle," said Zherkov to Bolkonski, pointing to the accountant, "but he feels a pain in the pit of his stomach already."
Zherkov and the staff officer bent over their saddles and turned their horses away.
As he was leaving the battery, firing was heard on the left also, and as it was too far to the left flank for him to have time to go there himself, Prince Bagration sent Zherkov to tell the general in command (the one who had paraded his regiment before Kutuzov at Braunau) that he must retreat as quickly as possible behind the hollow in the rear, as the right flank would probably not be able to withstand the enemy's attack very long.
Bagration had sent Zherkov to the general commanding that left flank with orders to retreat immediately.
Zherkov, not removing his hand from his cap, turned his horse about and galloped off.
As soon as Tushin with his guns, continually driving round or coming upon wounded men, was out of range of fire and had descended into the dip, he was met by some of the staff, among them the staff officer and Zherkov, who had been twice sent to Tushin's battery but had never reached it.
"I saw the Pavlograd hussars attack there, your excellency," chimed in Zherkov, looking uneasily around.
"How was it a gun was abandoned?" asked Bagration, frowning, not so much at the captain as at those who were laughing, among whom Zherkov laughed loudest.