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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Five : 1806-07 - Chapter 15
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War And Peace - Book Five : 1806-07 - Chapter 15 Post by :dolorespepper Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1059

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Five : 1806-07 - Chapter 15 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Five : 1806-07 - Chapter 15

When returning from his leave, Rostov felt, for the first time,
how close was the bond that united him to Denisov and and the whole
regiment.

On approaching it, Rostov felt as he had done when approaching his
home in Moscow. When he saw the first hussar with the unbuttoned
uniform of his regiment, when he recognized red-haired Dementyev and
saw the picket ropes of the roan horses, when Lavrushka gleefully
shouted to his master, "The count has come!" and Denisov, who had been
asleep on his bed, ran all disheveled out of the mud hut to embrace
him, and the officers collected round to greet the new arrival, Rostov
experienced the same feeling his mother, his father, and his sister
had embraced him, and tears of joy choked him so that he could not
speak. The regiment was also a home, and as unalterably dear and
precious as his parents' house.

When he had reported himself to the commander of the regiment and
had been reassigned to his former squadron, had been on duty and had
gone out foraging, when he had again entered into all the little
interests of the regiment and felt himself deprived of liberty and
bound in one narrow, unchanging frame, he experienced the same sense
of peace, of moral support, and the same sense being at home here in
his own place, as he had felt under the parental roof. But here was
none of all that turmoil of the world at large, where he did not
know his right place and took mistaken decisions; here was no Sonya
with whom he ought, or ought not, to have an explanation; here was
no possibility of going there or not going there; here there were
not twenty-four hours in the day which could be spent in such a
variety of ways; there was not that innumerable crowd of people of
whom not one was nearer to him or farther from him than another; there
were none of those uncertain and undefined money relations with his
father, and nothing to recall that terrible loss to Dolokhov. Here, in
the regiment, all was clear and simple. The whole world was divided
into two unequal parts: one, our Pavlograd regiment; the other, all
the rest. And the rest was no concern of his. In the regiment,
everything was definite: who was lieutenant, who captain, who was a
good fellow, who a bad one, and most of all, who was a comrade. The
canteenkeeper gave one credit, one's pay came every four months, there
was nothing to think out or decide, you had only to do nothing that
was considered bad in the Pavlograd regiment and, when given an order,
to do what was clearly, distinctly, and definitely ordered- and all
would be well.

Having once more entered into the definite conditions of this
regimental life, Rostov felt the joy and relief a tired man feels on
lying down to rest. Life in the regiment, during this campaign, was
all the pleasanter for him, because, after his loss to Dolokhov (for
which, in spite of all his family's efforts to console him, he could
not forgive himself), he had made up his mind to atone for his fault
by serving, not as he had done before, but really well, and by being a
perfectly first-rate comrade and officer- in a word, a splendid man
altogether, a thing which seemed so difficult out in the world, but so
possible in the regiment.

After his losses, he had determined to pay back his debt to his
parents in five years. He received ten thousand rubles a year, but now
resolved to take only two thousand and leave the rest to repay the
debt to his parents.

Our army, after repeated retreats and advances and battles at
Pultusk and Preussisch-Eylau, was concentrated near Bartenstein. It
was awaiting the Emperor's arrival and the beginning of a new
campaign.

The Pavlograd regiment, belonging to that part of the army which had
served in the 1805 campaign, had been recruiting up to strength in
Russia, and arrived too late to take part in the first actions of
the campaign. It had been neither at Pultusk nor at Preussisch-Eylau
and, when it joined the army in the field in the second half of the
campaign, was attached to Platov's division.

Platov's division was acting independently of the main army. Several
times parts of the Pavlograd regiment had exchanged shots with the
enemy, had taken prisoners, and once had even captured Marshal
Oudinot's carriages. In April the Pavlograds were stationed
immovably for some weeks near a totally ruined and deserted German
village.

A thaw had set in, it was muddy and cold, the ice on the river
broke, and the roads became impassable. For days neither provisions
for the men nor fodder for the horses had been issued. As no
transports could arrive, the men dispersed about the abandoned and
deserted villages, searching for potatoes, but found few even of
these.

Everything had been eaten up and the inhabitants had all fled- if
any remained, they were worse than beggars and nothing more could be
taken from them; even the soldiers, usually pitiless enough, instead
of taking anything from them, often gave them the last of their
rations.

The Pavlograd regiment had had only two men wounded in action, but
had lost nearly half its men from hunger and sickness. In the
hospitals, death was so certain that soldiers suffering from fever, or
the swelling that came from bad food, preferred to remain on duty, and
hardly able to drag their legs went to the front rather than to the
hospitals. When spring came on, the soldiers found a plant just
showing out of the ground that looked like asparagus, which, for
some reason, they called "Mashka's sweet root." It was very bitter,
but they wandered about the fields seeking it and dug it out with
their sabers and ate it, though they were ordered not to do so, as
it was a noxious plant. That spring a new disease broke out broke
out among the soldiers, a swelling of the arms, legs, and face,
which the doctors attributed to eating this root. But in spite of
all this, the soldiers of Denisov's squadron fed chiefly on
"Mashka's sweet root," because it was the second week that the last of
the biscuits were being doled out at the rate of half a pound a man
and the last potatoes received had sprouted and frozen.

The horses also had been fed for a fortnight on straw from the
thatched roofs and had become terribly thin, though still covered with
tufts of felty winter hair.

Despite this destitution, the soldiers and officers went on living
just as usual. Despite their pale swollen faces and tattered uniforms,
the hussars formed line for roll call, kept things in order, groomed
their horses, polished their arms, brought in straw from the
thatched roofs in place of fodder, and sat down to dine round the
caldrons from which they rose up hungry, joking about their nasty food
and their hunger. As usual, in their spare time, they lit bonfires,
steamed themselves before them naked; smoked, picked out and baked
sprouting rotten potatoes, told and listened to stories of
Potemkin's and Suvorov's campaigns, or to legends of Alesha the Sly,
or the priest's laborer Mikolka.

The officers, as usual, lived in twos and threes in the roofless,
half-ruined houses. The seniors tried to collect straw and potatoes
and, in general, food for the men. The younger ones occupied
themselves as before, some playing cards (there was plenty of money,
though there was no food), some with more innocent games, such as
quoits and skittles. The general trend of the campaign was rarely
spoken of, partly because nothing certain was known about it, partly
because there was a vague feeling that in the main it was going badly.

Rostov lived, as before, with Denisov, and since their furlough they
had become more friendly than ever. Denisov never spoke of Rostov's
family, but by the tender friendship his commander showed him,
Rostov felt that the elder hussar's luckless love for Natasha played a
part in strengthening their friendship. Denisov evidently tried to
expose Rostov to danger as seldom as possible, and after an action
greeted his safe return with evident joy. On one of his foraging
expeditions, in a deserted and ruined village to which he had come
in search of provisions, Rostov found a family consisting of an old
Pole and his daughter with an infant in arms. They were half clad,
hungry, too weak to get away on foot and had no means of obtaining a
conveyance. Rostov brought them to his quarters, placed them in his
own lodging, and kept them for some weeks while the old man was
recovering. One of his comrades, talking of women, began chaffing
Rostov, saying that he was more wily than any of them and that it
would not be a bad thing if he introduced to them the pretty Polish
girl he had saved. Rostov took the joke as an insult, flared up, and
said such unpleasant things to the officer that it was all Denisov
could do to prevent a duel. When the officer had gone away, Denisov,
who did not himself know what Rostov's relations with the Polish
girl might be, began to upbraid him for his quickness of temper, and
Rostov replied:

"Say what you like.... She is like a sister to me, and I can't
tell you how it offended me... because... well, for that reason...."

Denisov patted him on the shoulder and began rapidly pacing the room
without looking at Rostov, as was his way at moments of deep feeling.

"Ah, what a mad bweed you Wostovs are!" he muttered, and Rostov
noticed tears in his eyes.

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