In the shed in which Pierre was, one of the Russian soldiers, Sokolov, was dangerously ill, and Pierre told the corporal that something ought to be done about this soldier. The corporal said that Pierre might set his mind at rest, that they had both travelling and stationary hospitals for such cases, that instructions would be given in regard to the sick, and that in fact every possible contingency was provided for by the authorities.

“And then, M. Kiril, you have only to say a word to the captain, you know. Oh, he is a man who never forgets anything. Speak to the captain when he makes his round; he will do anything for you.”

The captain of whom the corporal spoke used often to have long conversations with Pierre, and did him all kinds of favours.

“‘You see, St. Thomas,” he said to me the other day, ‘Kiril is a man of education, who speaks French; he is a Russian lord who has had troubles, but he is a man. And he understands … If he wants anything, let him tell me, he shall not meet with a refusal. When one has studied, one likes education, you see, and well-bred people.’ It’s for your own sake I tell you that, M. Kiril. In the affair that happened the other day, if it hadn’t been for you, things would have ended badly.”

(The corporal was alluding to a fight a few days before between the prisoners and the French soldiers, in which Pierre had succeeded in pacifying his companions.) After chatting a little time longer the corporal went away.

Several of the prisoners had heard Pierre talking to the corporal, and they came up immediately to ask what the latter had said. While Pierre was telling his companions what the corporal had said about setting off from Moscow, a thin, sallow, ragged French soldier came up to the door of the shed. With a shy and rapid gesture he put his fingers to his forehead by way of a salute, and addressing Pierre, asked him if the soldier, Platoche, who was making a shirt for him, were in this shed.

The French soldiers had been provided with linen and leather a week previously, and had given out the materials to the Russian prisoners to make them boots and shirts.

“It’s ready, darling, it’s ready!” said Karataev, coming out with a carefully folded shirt. On account of the heat and for greater convenience in working, Karataev was wearing nothing but a pair of drawers and a tattered shirt, as black as the earth. He had tied a wisp of bast round his hair, as workmen do, and his round face looked rounder and more pleasing than ever.

“Punctuality is own brother to good business. I said Friday, and so I have done it,” said Platon, smiling and displaying the shirt he had made.

The Frenchman looked about him uneasily, and as though overcoming some hesitation, rapidly slipped off his uniform and put on the shirt. Under his uniform he had no shirt, but a long, greasy, flowered silk waistcoat next his bare, yellow, thin body. The Frenchman was evidently afraid that the prisoners, who were looking at him, would laugh at him, and he made haste to put his head through the shirt. None of the prisoners said a word. “To be sure, it fits well,” Platon observed, pulling the shirt down. The Frenchman, after putting his head and arms through, looked down at the shirt, and examined the stitching without lifting his eyes.

“Well, darling, this isn’t a tailor’s, you know, and I had no proper sewing materials, and there’s a saying without the right tool you can’t even kill a louse properly,” said Karataev, still admiring his own handiwork.

“Very good, thanks; but you must have some stuff left…” said the Frenchman.

“It will be more comfortable as it wears to your body,” said Karataev, still admiring his work. “There, you’ll be nice and comfortable.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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