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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 19
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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 19 Post by :taxon Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :435

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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 19

On the Pratzen Heights, where he had fallen with the flagstaff in
his hand, lay Prince Andrew Bolkonski bleeding profusely and
unconsciously uttering a gentle, piteous, and childlike moan.

Toward evening he ceased moaning and became quite still. He did
not know how long his unconsciousness lasted. Suddenly he again felt
that he was alive and suffering from a burning, lacerating pain in his
head.

"Where is it, that lofty sky that I did not know till now, but saw
today?" was his first thought. "And I did not know this suffering
either," he thought. "Yes, I did not know anything, anything at all
till now. But where am I?"

He listened and heard the sound of approaching horses, and voices
speaking French. He opened his eyes. Above him again was the same
lofty sky with clouds that had risen and were floating still higher,
and between them gleamed blue infinity. He did not turn his head and
did not see those who, judging by the sound of hoofs and voices, had
ridden up and stopped near him.

It was Napoleon accompanied by two aides-de-camp. Bonaparte riding
over the battlefield had given final orders to strengthen the
batteries firing at the Augesd Dam and was looking at the killed and
wounded left on the field.

"Fine men!" remarked Napoleon, looking at a dead Russian
grenadier, who, with his face buried in the ground and a blackened
nape, lay on his stomach with an already stiffened arm flung wide.

"The ammunition for the guns in position is exhausted, Your
Majesty," said an adjutant who had come from the batteries that were
firing at Augesd.

"Have some brought from the reserve," said Napoleon, and having gone
on a few steps he stopped before Prince Andrew, who lay on his back
with the flagstaff that had been dropped beside him. (The flag had
already been taken by the French as a trophy.)

"That's a fine death!" said Napoleon as he gazed at Bolkonski.

Prince Andrew understood that this was said of him and that it was
Napoleon who said it. He heard the speaker addressed as Sire. But he
heard the words as he might have heard the buzzing of a fly. Not
only did they not interest him, but he took no notice of them and at
once forgot them. His head was burning, he felt himself bleeding to
death, and he saw above him the remote, lofty, and everlasting sky. He
knew it was Napoleon- his hero- but at that moment Napoleon seemed
to him such a small, insignificant creature compared with what was
passing now between himself and that lofty infinite sky with the
clouds flying over it. At that moment it meant nothing to him who
might be standing over him, or what was said of him; he was only
glad that people were standing near him and only wished that they
would help him and bring him back to life, which seemed to him so
beautiful now that he had today learned to understand it so
differently. He collected all his strength, to stir and utter a sound.
He feebly moved his leg and uttered a weak, sickly groan which aroused
his own pity.

"Ah! He is alive," said Napoleon. "Lift this young man up and
carry him to the dressing station."

Having said this, Napoleon rode on to meet Marshal Lannes, who,
hat in hand, rode up smiling to the Emperor to congratulate him on the
victory.

Prince Andrew remembered nothing more: he lost consciousness from
the terrible pain of being lifted onto the stretcher, the jolting
while being moved, and the probing of his wound at the dressing
station. He did not regain consciousness till late in the day, when
with other wounded and captured Russian officers he was carried to the
hospital. During this transfer he felt a little stronger and was
able to look about him and even speak.

The first words he heard on coming to his senses were those of a
French convoy officer, who said rapidly: "We must halt here: the
Emperor will pass here immediately; it will please him to see these
gentlemen prisoners."

"There are so many prisoners today, nearly the whole Russian army,
that he is probably tired of them," said another officer.

"All the same! They say this one is the commander of all the Emperor
Alexander's Guards," said the first one, indicating a Russian
officer in the white uniform of the Horse Guards.

Bolkonski recognized Prince Repnin whom he had met in Petersburg
society. Beside him stood a lad of nineteen, also a wounded officer of
the Horse Guards.

Bonaparte, having come up at a gallop, stopped his horse.

"Which is the senior?" he asked, on seeing the prisoners.

They named the colonel, Prince Repnin.

"You are the commander of the Emperor Alexander's regiment of
Horse Guards?" asked Napoleon.

"I commanded a squadron," replied Repnin.

"Your regiment fulfilled its duty honorably," said Napoleon.

"The praise of a great commander is a soldier's highest reward,"
said Repnin.

"I bestow it with pleasure," said Napoleon. "And who is that young
man beside you?"

Prince Repnin named Lieutenant Sukhtelen.

After looking at him Napoleon smiled.

"He's very young to come to meddle with us."

"Youth is no hindrance to courage," muttered Sukhtelen in a
failing voice.

"A splendid reply!" said Napoleon. "Young man, you will go far!"

Prince Andrew, who had also been brought forward before the
Emperor's eyes to complete the show of prisoners, could not fail to
attract his attention. Napoleon apparently remembered seeing him on
the battlefield and, addressing him, again used the epithet "young
man" that was connected in his memory with Prince Andrew.

"Well, and you, young man," said he. "How do you feel, mon brave?"

Though five minutes before, Prince Andrew had been able to say a few
words to the soldiers who were carrying him, now with his eyes fixed
straight on Napoleon, he was silent.... So insignificant at that
moment seemed to him all the interests that engrossed Napoleon, so
mean did his hero himself with his paltry vanity and joy in victory
appear, compared to the lofty, equitable, and kindly sky which he
had seen and understood, that he could not answer him.

Everything seemed so futile and insignificant in comparison with the
stern and solemn train of thought that weakness from loss of blood,
suffering, and the nearness of death aroused in him. Looking into
Napoleon's eyes Prince Andrew thought of the insignificance of
greatness, the unimportance of life which no one could understand, and
the still greater unimportance of death, the meaning of which no one
alive could understand or explain.

The Emperor without waiting for an answer turned away and said to
one of the officers as he went: "Have these gentlemen attended to
and taken to my bivouac; let my doctor, Larrey, examine their
wounds. Au revoir, Prince Repnin!" and he spurred his horse and
galloped away.

His face shone with self-satisfaction and pleasure.

The soldiers who had carried Prince Andrew had noticed and taken the
little gold icon Princess Mary had hung round her brother's neck,
but seeing the favor the Emperor showed the prisoners, they now
hastened to return the holy image.

Prince Andrew did not see how and by whom it was replaced, but the
little icon with its thin gold chain suddenly appeared upon his
chest outside his uniform.

"It would be good," thought Prince Andrew, glancing at the icon
his sister had hung round his neck with such emotion and reverence,
"it would be good if everything were as clear and simple as it seems
to Mary. How good it would be to know where to seek for help in this
life, and what to expect after it beyond the grave! How happy and calm
I should be if I could now say: 'Lord, have mercy on me!'... But to
whom should I say that? Either to a Power indefinable,
incomprehensible, which I not only cannot address but which I cannot
even express in words- the Great All or Nothing-" said he to
himself, "or to that God who has been sewn into this amulet by Mary!
There is nothing certain, nothing at all except the unimportance of
everything I understand, and the greatness of something
incomprehensible but all-important.

The stretchers moved on. At every jolt he again felt unendurable
pain; his feverishness increased and he grew delirious. Visions of his
father, wife, sister, and future son, and the tenderness he had felt
the night before the battle, the figure of the insignificant little
Napoleon, and above all this the lofty sky, formed the chief
subjects of his delirious fancies.

The quiet home life and peaceful happiness of Bald Hills presented
itself to him. He was already enjoying that happiness when that little
Napoleon had suddenly appeared with his unsympathizing look of
shortsighted delight at the misery of others, and doubts and
torments had followed, and only the heavens promised peace. Toward
morning all these dreams melted and merged into the chaos and darkness
of unconciousness and oblivion which in the opinion of Napoleon's
doctor, Larrey, was much more likely to end in death than in
convalescence.

"He is a nervous, bilious subject," said Larrey, "and will not
recover."

And Prince Andrew, with others fatally wounded, was left to the care
of the inhabitants of the district.

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