Twenty-three soldiers, three officers, and two officials were confined in th_hed in which Pierre had been placed and where he remained for four weeks.
When Pierre remembered them afterwards they all seemed misty figures to hi_xcept Platon Karataev, who always remained in his mind a most vivid an_recious memory and the personification of everything Russian, kindly, an_ound. When Pierre saw his neighbor next morning at dawn the first impressio_f him, as of something round, was fully confirmed: Platon's whole figure—in _rench overcoat girdled with a cord, a soldier's cap, and bast shoes—wa_ound. His head was quite round, his back, chest, shoulders, and even hi_rms, which he held as if ever ready to embrace something, were rounded, hi_leasant smile and his large, gentle brown eyes were also round.
Platon Karataev must have been fifty, judging by his stories of campaigns h_ad been in, told as by an old soldier. He did not himself know his age an_as quite unable to determine it. But his brilliantly white, strong teet_hich showed in two unbroken semicircles when he laughed—as he often did—wer_ll sound and good, there was not a gray hair in his beard or on his head, an_is whole body gave an impression of suppleness and especially of firmness an_ndurance.
His face, despite its fine, rounded wrinkles, had an expression of innocenc_nd youth, his voice was pleasant and musical. But the chief peculiarity o_is speech was its directness and appositeness. It was evident that he neve_onsidered what he had said or was going to say, and consequently the rapidit_nd justice of his intonation had an irresistible persuasiveness.
His physical strength and agility during the first days of his imprisonmen_ere such that he seemed not to know what fatigue and sickness meant. Ever_ight before lying down, he said: "Lord, lay me down as a stone and raise m_p as a loaf!" and every morning on getting up, he said: "I lay down an_urled up, I get up and shake myself." And indeed he only had to lie down, t_all asleep like a stone, and he only had to shake himself, to be read_ithout a moment's delay for some work, just as children are ready to pla_irectly they awake. He could do everything, not very well but not badly. H_aked, cooked, sewed, planed, and mended boots. He was always busy, and onl_t night allowed himself conversation—of which he was fond—and songs. He di_ot sing like a trained singer who knows he is listened to, but like th_irds, evidently giving vent to the sounds in the same way that one stretche_neself or walks about to get rid of stiffness, and the sounds were alway_igh-pitched, mournful, delicate, and almost feminine, and his face at suc_imes was very serious.
Having been taken prisoner and allowed his beard to grow, he seemed to hav_hrown off all that had been forced upon him- everything military and alien t_imself—and had returned to his former peasant habits.
"A soldier on leave—a shirt outside breeches," he would say.
He did not like talking about his life as a soldier, though he did no_omplain, and often mentioned that he had not been flogged once during th_hole of his army service. When he related anything it was generally some ol_nd evidently precious memory of his "Christian" life, as he called hi_easant existence. The proverbs, of which his talk was full, were for the mos_art not the coarse and indecent saws soldiers employ, but those folk saying_hich taken without a context seem so insignificant, but when used appositel_uddenly acquire a significance of profound wisdom.
He would often say the exact opposite of what he had said on a previou_ccasion, yet both would be right. He liked to talk and he talked well,
adorning his speech with terms of endearment and with folk sayings whic_ierre thought he invented himself, but the chief charm of his talk lay in th_act that the commonest events—sometimes just such as Pierre had witnesse_ithout taking notice of them- assumed in Karataev's a character of solem_itness. He liked to hear the folk tales one of the soldiers used to tell o_n evening (they were always the same), but most of all he liked to hea_tories of real life. He would smile joyfully when listening to such stories,
now and then putting in a word or asking a question to make the moral beaut_f what he was told clear to himself. Karataev had no attachments,
friendships, or love, as Pierre understood them, but loved and live_ffectionately with everything life brought him in contact with, particularl_ith man—not any particular man, but those with whom he happened to be. H_oved his dog, his comrades, the French, and Pierre who was his neighbor, bu_ierre felt that in spite of Karataev's affectionate tenderness for him (b_hich he unconsciously gave Pierre's spiritual life its due) he would not hav_rieved for a moment at parting from him. And Pierre began to feel in the sam_ay toward Karataev.
To all the other prisoners Platon Karataev seemed a most ordinary soldier.
They called him "little falcon" or "Platosha," chaffed him good-naturedly, an_ent him on errands. But to Pierre he always remained what he had seemed tha_irst night: an unfathomable, rounded, eternal personification of the spiri_f simplicity and truth.
Platon Karataev knew nothing by heart except his prayers. When he began t_peak he seemed not to know how he would conclude.
Sometimes Pierre, struck by the meaning of his words, would ask him to repea_hem, but Platon could never recall what he had said a moment before, just a_e never could repeat to Pierre the words of his favorite song: native an_irch tree and my heart is sick occurred in it, but when spoken and not sung,
no meaning could be got out of it. He did not, and could not, understand th_eaning of words apart from their context. Every word and action of his wa_he manifestation of an activity unknown to him, which was his life. But hi_ife, as he regarded it, had no meaning as a separate thing. It had meanin_nly as part of a whole of which he was always conscious. His words an_ctions flowed from him as evenly, inevitably, and spontaneously as fragranc_xhales from a flower. He could not understand the value or significance o_ny word or deed taken separately.