It was indeed a fearful path through which they must walk. They passed by troops of corpses--by thousands of groaning, rattling, dying men--by many severely wounded, who cried out to them piteously for mercy and help! Often Charles Henry hesitated and stood still to offer consolation to the unhappy wretches, but Fritz Kober drew him on. "We cannot help them, and we have far to go!" Often the swarming Cossacks, dashing around on their agile little ponies, called to them from afar off in their barbarous speech, but when they drew near and saw the Austrian uniforms, they passed them quietly, and were not surprised they had not given the pass-word.
At last they passed the battle-field, and came on the open plain, at the end of which they perceived the camp-fires of the Russians and Austrians. The nearer they approached, the more lively was the scene. Shouts, laughter, loud calls, and outcries--from time to time a word of command. And in the midst of this mad confusion, here and there soldiers were running, market-women offering them wares cheap, and exulting soldiers assembling around the camp-fires. From time to time the regular step of the patrouille was heard, who surrounded the camp, and kept a watchful eye in every direction.
Arm in arm they passed steadily around the camp. "One thing I know," whispered Fritz Kober, "they have no thought of marching. They will pass a quiet, peaceful night by their camp-fires."
"I agree with you," said Charles Henry, "but let us go forward and listen a little; perhaps we can learn where the generals are quartered."
"Look, look! it must he there," said Fritz Kober, hastily.
"There are no camp-fires; but there is a brilliant light in the peasants' huts, and it appears to me that I see a guard before the doors. These, certainly, are the headquarters."
"Let us go there, then," said Charles Henry; "but we must approach the houses from behind, and thus avoid the guard."
They moved cautiously around, and drew near the houses. Profound quiet reigned in this neighborhood; it was the reverence of subordination--the effect which the presence of superior officers ever exercises upon their men. Here stood groups of officers, lightly whispering together--there soldiers were leading their masters' horses; not far off orderlies were waiting on horseback-- sentinels with shouldered arms were going slowly by. The attention of all seemed to be fixed upon the two small houses, and every glance and every ear was turned eagerly toward the brilliantly lighted windows.