Chapter 18

NEAR THE VILLAGE of Pratzen Rostov had been told to look for Kutuzov and the Emperor. But there they were not, nor was there a single officer to be found in command, nothing but disorderly crowds of troops of different sorts. He urged on his weary horse to hasten through this rabble, but the further he went the more disorderly the crowds became. The high road along which he rode, was thronged with carriages, with vehicles of all sorts, and Austrian and Russian soldiers of every kind, wounded and unwounded. It was all uproar and confused bustle under the sinister whiz of the flying cannon balls from the French batteries stationed on the heights of Pratzen.

“Where’s the Emperor? Where’s Kutuzov?” Rostov kept asking of every one he could stop, and from no one could he get an answer.

At last clutching a soldier by the collar, he forced him to answer him.

“Aye! brother! they’ve all bolted long ago!” the soldier said to Rostov, laughing for some reason as he pulled himself away. Letting go that soldier, who must, he thought, be drunk, Rostov stopped the horse of a groom or postillion of some personage of consequence, and began to cross-question him. The groom informed Rostov that an hour before the Tsar had been driven at full speed in a carriage along this very road, and that the Tsar was dangerously wounded.

“It can’t be,” said Rostov; “probably some one else.”

“I saw him myself,” said the groom with a self-satisfied smirk; “it’s high time I should know the Emperor, I should think, after the many times I’ve seen him in Petersburg; I saw him as it might be here. Pale, deadly pale, sitting in the carriage. The way they drove the four raven horses! my goodness, didn’t they dash by us! It would be strange, I should think, if I didn’t know the Tsar’s horses and Ilya Ivanitch; why, Ilya never drives any one else but the Tsar.”

Rostov let go of the horse and would have gone on. A wounded officer passing by addressed him. “Why, who is it you want?” asked the officer, “the commander-in-chief? Oh, he was killed by a cannon ball, struck in the breast before our regiment.”

“Not killed—wounded,” another officer corrected him.

“Who? Kutuzov?” asked Rostov.

“Not Kutuzov, but what’s his name—well, it’s all the same, there are not many left alive. Go that way, over there to that village, all the commanding officers are there,” said the officer, pointing to the village of Gostieradeck, and he walked on.

Rostov rode on at a walking pace, not knowing to whom and with what object he was going now. The Tsar was wounded, the battle was lost. There was no refusing to believe in it now. Rostov rode in the direction which had been pointed out to him, and saw in the distance turrets and a church. What had he to hasten for now? What was he to say now to the Tsar or to Kutuzov, even if they were alive and not wounded?

“Go along this road, your honour, that way you will be killed in a trice!” a soldier shouted to him. “You’ll be killed that way!”

“Oh! what nonsense!” said another. “Where is he to go? That way’s nearest.” Rostov pondered, and rode off precisely in the direction in which he had been told he would be killed.

“Now, nothing matters; if the Emperor is wounded, can I try and save myself?” he thought. He rode into the region where more men had been killed than anywhere, in fleeing from Pratzen. The French had not yet taken that region, though the Russians—those who were slightly wounded or unhurt—had long abandoned it. All over the field, like ridges of dung on well-kept plough-land, lay the heaps of dead and

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