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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12
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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12 Post by :gagarin Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2117

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12

After the execution Pierre was separated from the rest of the
prisoners and placed alone in a small, ruined, and befouled church.

Toward evening a noncommissioned officer entered with two soldiers
and told him that he had been pardoned and would now go to the
barracks for the prisoners of war. Without understanding what was said
to him, Pierre got up and went with the soldiers. They took him to the
upper end of the field, where there were some sheds built of charred
planks, beams, and battens, and led him into one of them. In the
darkness some twenty different men surrounded Pierre. He looked at
them without understanding who they were, why they were there, or what
they wanted of him. He heard what they said, but did not understand
the meaning of the words and made no kind of deduction from or
application of them. He replied to questions they put to him, but
did not consider who was listening to his replies, nor how they
would understand them. He looked at their faces and figures, but
they all seemed to him equally meaningless.

From the moment Pierre had witnessed those terrible murders
committed by men who did not wish to commit them, it was as if the
mainspring of his life, on which everything depended and which made
everything appear alive, had suddenly been wrenched out and everything
had collapsed into a heap of meaningless rubbish. Though he did not
acknowledge it to himself, his faith in the right ordering of the
universe, in humanity, in his own soul, and in God, had been
destroyed. He had experienced this before, but never so strongly as
now. When similar doubts had assailed him before, they had been the
result of his own wrongdoing, and at the bottom of his heart he had
felt that relief from his despair and from those doubts was to be
found within himself. But now he felt that the universe had crumbled
before his eyes and only meaningless ruins remained, and this not by
any fault of his own. He felt that it was not in his power to regain
faith in the meaning of life.

Around him in the darkness men were standing and evidently something
about him interested them greatly. They were telling him something and
asking him something. Then they led him away somewhere, and at last he
found himself in a corner of the shed among men who were laughing
and talking on all sides.

"Well, then, mates... that very prince who..." some voice at the
other end of the shed was saying, with a strong emphasis on the word
who.

Sitting silent and motionless on a heap of straw against the wall,
Pierre sometimes opened and sometimes closed his eyes. But as soon
as he closed them he saw before him the dreadful face of the factory
lad- especially dreadful because of its simplicity- and the faces of
the murderers, even more dreadful because of their disquiet. And he
opened his eyes again and stared vacantly into the darkness around
him.

Beside him in a stooping position sat a small man of whose
presence he was first made aware by a strong smell of perspiration
which came from him every time he moved. This man was doing
something to his legs in the darkness, and though Pierre could not see
his face he felt that the man continually glanced at him. On growing
used to the darkness Pierre saw that the man was taking off his leg
bands, and the way he did it aroused Pierre's interest.

Having unwound the string that tied the band on one leg, he
carefully coiled it up and immediately set to work on the other leg,
glancing up at Pierre. While one hand hung up the first string the
other was already unwinding the band on the second leg. In this way,
having carefully removed the leg bands by deft circular motions of his
arm following one another uninterruptedly, the man hung the leg
bands up on some pegs fixed above his head. Then he took out a
knife, cut something, closed the knife, placed it under the head of
his bed, and, seating himself comfortably, clasped his arms round
his lifted knees and fixed his eyes on Pierre. The latter was
conscious of something pleasant, comforting, and well rounded in these
deft movements, in the man's well-ordered arrangements in his
corner, and even in his very smell, and he looked at the man without
taking his eyes from him.

"You've seen a lot of trouble, sir, eh?" the little man suddenly
said.

And there was so much kindliness and simplicity in his singsong
voice that Pierre tried to reply, but his jaw trembled and he felt
tears rising to his eyes. The little fellow, giving Pierre no time
to betray his confusion, instantly continued in the same pleasant
tones:

"Eh, lad, don't fret!" said he, in the tender singsong caressing
voice old Russian peasant women employ. "Don't fret, friend- 'suffer
an hour, live for an age!' that's how it is, my dear fellow. And
here we live, thank heaven, without offense. Among these folk, too,
there are good men as well as bad," said he, and still speaking, he
turned on his knees with a supple movement, got up, coughed, and
went off to another part of the shed.

"Eh, you rascal!" Pierre heard the same kind voice saying at the
other end of the shed. "So you've come, you rascal? She remembers...
Now, now, that'll do!"

And the soldier, pushing away a little dog that was jumping up at
him, returned to his place and sat down. In his hands he had something
wrapped in a rag.

"Here, eat a bit, sir," said he, resuming his former respectful tone
as he unwrapped and offered Pierre some baked potatoes. "We had soup
for dinner and the potatoes are grand!"

Pierre had not eaten all day and the smell of the potatoes seemed
extremely pleasant to him. He thanked the soldier and began to eat.

"Well, are they all right?" said the soldier with a smile. "You
should do like this."

He took a potato, drew out his clasp knife, cut the potato into
two equal halves on the palm of his hand, sprinkled some salt on it
from the rag, and handed it to Pierre.

"The potatoes are grand!" he said once more. "Eat some like that!"

Pierre thought he had never eaten anything that tasted better.

"Oh, I'm all right," said he, "but why did they shoot those poor
fellows? The last one was hardly twenty."

"Tss, tt...!" said the little man. "Ah, what a sin... what a sin!"
he added quickly, and as if his words were always waiting ready in his
mouth and flew out involuntarily he went on: "How was it, sir, that
you stayed in Moscow?"

"I didn't think they would come so soon. I stayed accidentally,"
replied Pierre.

"And how did they arrest you, dear lad? At your house?"

"No, I went to look at the fire, and they arrested me there, and
tried me as an incendiary."

"Where there's law there's injustice," put in the little man.

"And have you been here long?" Pierre asked as he munched the last
of the potato.

"I? It was last Sunday they took me, out of a hospital in Moscow."

"Why, are you a soldier then?"

"Yes, we are soldiers of the Apsheron regiment. I was dying of
fever. We weren't told anything. There were some twenty of us lying
there. We had no idea, never guessed at all."

"And do you feel sad here?" Pierre inquired.

"How can one help it, lad? My name is Platon, and the surname is
Karataev," he added, evidently wishing to make it easier for Pierre to
address him. "They call me 'little falcon' in the regiment. How is one
to help feeling sad? Moscow- she's the mother of cities. How can one
see all this and not feel sad? But 'the maggot gnaws the cabbage,
yet dies first'; that's what the old folks used to tell us," he
added rapidly.

"What? What did you say?" asked Pierre.

"Who? I?" said Karataev. "I say things happen not as we plan but
as God judges," he replied, thinking that he was repeating what he had
said before, and immediately continued:

"Well, and you, have you a family estate, sir? And a house? So you
have abundance, then? And a housewife? And your old parents, are
they still living?" he asked.

And though it was too dark for Pierre to see, he felt that a
suppressed smile of kindliness puckered the soldier's lips as he put
these questions. He seemed grieved that Pierre had no parents,
especially that he had no mother.

"A wife for counsel, a mother-in-law for welcome, but there's none
as dear as one's own mother!" said he. "Well, and have you little
ones?" he went on asking.

Again Pierre's negative answer seemed to distress him, and he
hastened to add:

"Never mind! You're young folks yet, and please God may still have
some. The great thing is to live in harmony...."

"But it's all the same now," Pierre could not help saying.

"Ah, my dear fellow!" rejoined Karataev, "never decline a prison
or a beggar's sack!"

He seated himself more comfortably and coughed, evidently
preparing to tell a long story.

"Well, my dear fellow, I was still living at home," he began. "We
had a well-to-do homestead, plenty of land, we peasants lived well and
our house was one to thank God for. When Father and we went out mowing
there were seven of us. We lived well. We were real peasants. It so
happened..."

And Platon Karataev told a long story of how he had gone into
someone's copse to take wood, how he had been caught by the keeper,
had been tried, flogged, and sent to serve as a soldier.

"Well, lad," and a smile changed the tone of his voice "we thought
it was a misfortune but it turned out a blessing! If it had not been
for my sin, my brother would have had to go as a soldier. But he, my
younger brother, had five little ones, while I, you see, only left a
wife behind. We had a little girl, but God took her before I went as a
soldier. I come home on leave and I'll tell you how it was, I look and
see that they are living better than before. The yard full of
cattle, the women at home, two brothers away earning wages, and only
Michael the youngest, at home. Father, he says, 'All my children are
the same to me: it hurts the same whichever finger gets bitten. But if
Platon hadn't been shaved for a soldier, Michael would have had to
go.' called us all to him and, will you believe it, placed us in front
of the icons. 'Michael,' he says, 'come here and bow down to his feet;
and you, young woman, you bow down too; and you, grandchildren, also
bow down before him! Do you understand?' he says. That's how it is,
dear fellow. Fate looks for a head. But we are always judging, 'that's
not well- that's not right!' Our luck is like water in a dragnet:
you pull at it and it bulges, but when you've drawn it out it's empty!
That's how it is."

And Platon shifted his seat on the straw.

After a short silence he rose.

"Well, I think you must be sleepy," said he, and began rapidly
crossing himself and repeating:

"Lord Jesus Christ, holy Saint Nicholas, Frola and Lavra! Lord Jesus
Christ, holy Saint Nicholas, Frola and Lavra! Lord Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and save us!" he concluded, then bowed to the ground,
got up, sighed, and sat down again on his heap of straw. "That's the
way. Lay me down like a stone, O God, and raise me up like a loaf," he
muttered as he lay down, pulling his coat over him.

"What prayer was that you were saying?" asked Pierre.

"Eh?" murmured Platon, who had almost fallen asleep. "What was I
saying? I was praying. Don't you pray?"

"Yes, I do," said Pierre. "But what was that you said: Frola and
Lavra?"

"Well, of course," replied Platon quickly, "the horses' saints.
One must pity the animals too. Eh, the rascal! Now you've curled up
and got warm, you daughter of a bitch!" said Karataev, touching the
dog that lay at his feet, and again turning over he fell asleep
immediately.

Sounds of crying and screaming came from somewhere in the distance
outside, and flames were visible through the cracks of the shed, but
inside it was quiet and dark. For a long time Pierre did not sleep,
but lay with eyes open in the darkness, listening to the regular
snoring of Platon who lay beside him, and he felt that the world
that had been shattered was once more stirring in his soul with a
new beauty and on new and unshakable foundations.

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Twenty-three soldiers, three officers, and two officials wereconfined in the shed in which Pierre had been placed and where heremained for four weeks.When Pierre remembered them afterwards they all seemed misty figuresto him except Platon Karataev, who always remained in his mind amost vivid and precious memory and the personification of everythingRussian, kindly, and round. When Pierre saw his neighbor nextmorning at dawn the first impression of him, as of something round,was fully confirmed: Platon's whole figure- in a French overcoatgirdled with a cord, a soldier's cap, and bast shoes- was round. Hishead was quite round, his back, chest, shoulders, and
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