Chapter 37

ONE OF THE DOCTORS came out of the tent with a blood-stained apron, and small, blood-stained hands, in one of which he had a cigar, carefully held between his thumb and little finger, that it might not be stained too. This doctor threw his head up, and looked about him, but over the level of the wounded crowd. He was evidently longing for a short respite. After turning his head from right to left for a few minutes, he sighed and dropped his eyes again.

“All right, immediately,” he said in reply to an assistant, who pointed him our Prince Andrey, and he bade the bearers carry him into the tent.

A murmur rose in the crowd of wounded men waiting.

“Even in the next world it’s only the gentry who will have a good time,” said one.

Prince Andrey was carried in, and laid on a table that had just been cleared, and was being rinsed over by an assistant. He could not make out distinctly what was in the tent. The pitiful groans on all sides, and the excruciating pain in his thigh, his stomach, and his back distracted his attention. Everything he saw around melted for him into a single general impression of naked, blood-stained, human flesh, which seemed to fill up the whole low-pitched tent, as, a few weeks before, on that hot August day, the bare human flesh had filled up the dirty pond along the Smolensk road. Yes, it was the same flesh, the same chair à canon, the sight of which had aroused in him then a horror, that seemed prophetic of what he felt now.

There were three tables in the tent. Two were occupied, on the third they laid Prince Andrey. For some time he was left alone, an involuntary witness of what was being done at the other tables. On the table nearest sat a Tatar, probably of a Cossack regiment, judging from the uniform that had been thrown down close by. Four soldiers were holding him. A doctor in spectacles was cutting something in his brown, muscular back.

‘Ooh! ooh! ooh!…” the Tatar, as it were, grunted, and all of a sudden, throwing up his broad, swarthy, sun-burned face, and showing his white teeth, he began wriggling, twitching, and shrieking a piercingly shrill, prolonged scream. On the other table, round which a number of persons were standing, a big, stout man lay on his back, with his head flung back. The colour and curliness of the hair and the shape seemed strangely familiar to Prince Andrey. Several assistants were holding him, and weighing on his chest. One white, plump leg was incessantly moving with a rapid, spasmodic twitching. This man was sobbing and choking convulsively. Two doctors—one was pale and trembling—were mutely engaged in doing something with the other red, gory leg. Having finished with the Tatar, over whom a cloak was thrown, the doctor in spectacles came up to Prince Andrey, wiping his hands.

He glanced at his face, and hurriedly turned away. “Undress him! Why are you dawdling?” he shouted angrily to the assistant.

His earliest, remotest childhood came back to Prince Andrey, when the assistant, with tucked-up sleeves, hurriedly unbuttoned his buttons, and took off his clothes. The doctor bent close down over the wound, felt it, and sighed deeply. Then he made a sign to some one. And the excruciating pain inside his stomach made Prince Andrey lose consciousness. When he regained consciousness, the broken splinters of his thigh bone had been removed, the bits of ragged flesh had been cut off, and the wound bound up. Water was sprinkled on his face. As soon as Prince Andrey opened his eyes, the doctor bent over him, kissed him on the lips without speaking, and hurried away.

After the agony he had passed through, Prince Andrey felt a blissful peace, such as he had not known for very long. All the best and happiest moments of his life, especially his earliest childhood, when he had been undressed and put to bed, when his nurse had sung lullabies over him, when, burying his head in the pillows, he had felt happy in the mere consciousness of life, rose before his imagination, not like the past even, but as though it were the actual present.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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