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.