Chapter 19

PRINCE ANDREY BOLKONSKY was lying on the hill of Pratzen, on the spot where he had fallen with the flagstaff in his hands. He was losing blood, and kept moaning a soft, plaintive, childish moan, of which he himself knew nothing. Towards evening he ceased moaning and became perfectly still. He did not know how long his unconsciousness lasted. Suddenly he felt again that he was alive and suffering from a burning, lacerating pain in his head.

“Where is it, that lofty sky that I knew not till now and saw to-day?” was his first thought. “And this agony I did not know either,” he thought. “Yes, I knew nothing, nothing till now. But where am I?”

He fell to listening, and caught the sound of approaching hoofs and voices speaking French. He opened his eyes. Above him was again the same lofty sky, with clouds higher than ever floating over it, and between them stretches of blue infinity. He did not turn his head and did not see the men who, judging from the voices and the thud of hoofs, had ridden up to him and stopped.

They were Napoleon and two adjutants escorting him. Bonaparte, making a tour of the field of battle, had been giving his last instructions for the strengthening of the battery firing at the Augest dam, and was inspecting the dead and wounded on the field of battle.

“Fine men!” said Napoleon, looking at a dead Russian grenadier, who with his face thrust into the earth and blackened neck lay on his stomach, one stiff arm flung wide.

“The field-guns have exhausted their ammunition,” said an adjutant, arriving that moment from the battery that was firing at Augest.

“Bring up more from the reserve,” said Napoleon, and riding a few steps away stood still, looking at Prince Andrey, who lay on his back with the abandoned flagstaff beside him (the flag had been taken by the French as a trophy).

“That’s a fine death!” said Napoleon, looking at Bolkonsky. Prince Andrey knew that it was said of him, and that it was Napoleon saying it. He heard the speaker of those words addressed as “your majesty.” But he heard the words as he heard the buzzing of flies. It was not merely that he took no interest in them, but he did not attend to them and at once forgot them. There was a burning pain in his head; he felt he was losing blood, and he saw above him the high, far-away, everlasting sky. He knew it was Napoleon—his hero—but at that moment Napoleon seemed to him such a small, insignificant creature in comparison with what was passing now between his soul and that lofty, limitless sky with the clouds flying over it. It meant nothing to him at that moment who was standing over him, what was being said of him. He was only glad that people were standing over him, and his only desire was that these people should help him and bring him back to life, which seemed to him so good, because he saw it all quite differently now. He made a supreme effort to stir and utter some sound. He moved his leg faintly, and uttered a weak, sickly moan that touched himself. “Ah, he’s alive,” said Napoleon. “Pick up this young man and carry him to an ambulance!” Saying this, Napoleon rode on to meet Marshal Lannes, who rode up to meet the conqueror, smiling, taking off his hat and congratulating him on his victory.

Prince Andrey remembered nothing more; he lost consciousness from the excruciating pain caused by being laid on the stretcher, the jolting while he was being moved, and the sounding of his wound at the ambulance. He only regained consciousness towards the end of the day when with other Russian officers, wounded and prisoners, he was being taken to the hospital. On this journey he felt a little stronger, and could look about him and even speak.

The first words he heard on coming to himself were from a French convoy officer who was saying hurriedly: “They must stop here; the Emperor will be here directly; it will be a pleasure for him to see these prisoners.”

“There are such a lot of prisoners to-day, almost the whole of the Russian army, that he is probably weary of seeing them,” said another officer.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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