Chapter 32

SEVEN DAYS had passed since Prince Andrey had found himself in the ambulance station on the field of Borodino. All that time he had been in a state of almost continual unconsciousness. The fever and inflammation of the bowels, which had been injured, were, in the opinion of the doctor accompanying the wounded, certain to carry him off. But on the seventh day he ate with relish a piece of bread with some tea, and the doctor observed that the fever was going down. Prince Andrey had regained consciousness in the morning. The first night after leaving Moscow had been fairly warm, and Prince Andrey had spent the night in his carriage. But at Mytishtchy the wounded man had himself asked to be moved and given tea. The pain caused by moving him into the hut had made Prince Andrey groan aloud and lose consciousness again. When he had been laid on his camp bedstead, he lay a long while with closed eyes without moving. Then he opened his eyes and whispered softly, “How about the tea?” The doctor was struck by this instance of consciousness of the little details of daily life. He felt his pulse, and to his surprise and dissatisfaction found that the pulse was stronger. The doctor’s dissatisfaction was due to the fact that he felt certain from his experience that Prince Andrey could not live, and that if he did not die now, he would only die a little later with even greater suffering. With Prince Andrey was the red-nosed major of his regiment, Timohin, who had joined him in Moscow with a wound in his leg received at the same battle of Borodino. The doctor, the prince’s valet, and coachman, and two orderlies were in charge of them.

Tea was given to Prince Andrey. He drank it eagerly, looking with feverish eyes at the door in front of him, as though trying to understand and recall something.

“No more. Is Timohin here?” he asked.

Timohin edged along the bench towards him.

“I am here, your excellency.”

“How is your wound?”

“Mine? All right. But how are you?”

Prince Andrey pondered again, as though he were recollecting something.

“Could not one get a book here?” he said.

“What book?”

“The Gospel! I haven’t one.”

The doctor promised to get it, and began questioning the prince about his symptoms. Prince Andrey answered all the doctor’s questions rationally, though reluctantly, and then said that he wanted a support put under him, as it was uncomfortable and very painful for him as he was. The doctor and the valet took off the military cloak, with which he was covered, and puckering up their faces at the sickly smell of putrefying flesh that came from the wound, began to look into the terrible place. The doctor was very much troubled about something; he made some changes, turning the wounded man over so that he groaned again, and again lost consciousness from the pain when they turned him over. He began to be delirious, and kept asking for the book to be brought and to be put under him. “What trouble would it be to you?” he kept saying. “I haven’t it, get it me, please,—put it under me just for a minute,” he said in a piteous voice.

The doctor went outside to wash his hands.

“Ah, you have no conscience, you fellows really,” the doctor was saying to the valet, who was pouring water over his hands. “For one minute I didn’t look after you. Why, it’s such suffering that I wonder how he bears it.”

“I thought we did put it under him right, by the Lord Jesus Christ,” said the valet.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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