Chapter 17

IN THE MONTH of June was fought the battle of Friedland, in which the Pavlograd hussars did not take part. It was followed by a truce. Rostov, who sorely felt his friend’s absence, and had had no news of him since he left, was uneasy about his wound and the course his difficulties might be taking, and he took advantage of the truce to get leave to visit Denisov at the hospital.

The hospital was in a little Prussian town, which had twice been sacked by Russian and French troops. In the summer weather, when the country looked so pleasant, this little town presented a strikingly melancholy contrast, with its broken roofs and fences, its foul streets and ragged inhabitants, and the sick and drunken soldiers wandering about it.

The hospital was a stone house with remnants of fence torn up in the yard, and window frames and panes partly broken. Several soldiers bandaged up, and with pale and swollen faces, were walking or sitting in the sunshine in the yard.

As soon as Rostov went in at the door, he was conscious of the stench of hospital and putrefying flesh all about him. On the stairs he met a Russian army doctor with a cigar in his mouth. He was followed by a Russian trained assistant.

“I can’t be everywhere at once,” the doctor was saying; “come in the evening to Makar Alexyevitch’s, I shall be there.” The assistant asked some further question. “Oh! do as you think best! What difference will it make?”

The doctor caught sight of Rostov mounting the stairs.

“What are you here for, your honour?” said the doctor. “What are you here for? Couldn’t you meet with a bullet that you want to pick up typhus? This is a pest-house, my good sir.”

“How so?” asked Rostov.

“Typhus, sir. It’s death to any one to go in. It’s only we two, Makeev and I” (he pointed to the assistant) “who are still afoot here. Five of us, doctors, have died here already. As soon as a new one comes, he’s done for in a week,” said the doctor with evident satisfaction. “They have sent for Prussian doctors, but our allies aren’t fond of the job.”

Rostov explained that he wanted to see Major Denisov of the hussars, who was lying wounded here.

“I don’t know, can’t tell you, my good sir. Only think, I have three hospitals to look after alone—over four hundred patients. It’s a good thing the Prussian charitable ladies send us coffee and lint—two pounds a month—or we should be lost.” He laughed. “Four hundred, sir; and they keep sending me in fresh cases. It is four hundred, isn’t it? Eh?” He turned to the assistant.

The assistant looked worried. He was unmistakably in a hurry for the talkative doctor to be gone, and was waiting with vexation.

“Major Denisov,” repeated Rostov; “he was wounded at Moliten.”

“I believe he’s dead. Eh, Makeev?” the doctor queried of the assistant carelessly.

The assistant did not, however, confirm the doctor’s words.

“Is he a long, red-haired man?” asked the doctor.

Rostov described Denisov’s appearance.

“He was here, he was,” the doctor declared, with a sort of glee. “He must be dead, but still I’ll see. I have lists. Have you got them, Makeev?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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