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Chapter 24

  • On that bright evening of August 25, Prince Andrew lay leaning on his elbow i_ broken-down shed in the village of Knyazkovo at the further end of hi_egiment's encampment. Through a gap in the broken wall he could see, besid_he wooden fence, a row of thirty year-old birches with their lower branche_opped off, a field on which shocks of oats were standing, and some bushe_ear which rose the smoke of campfires—the soldiers' kitchens.
  • Narrow and burdensome and useless to anyone as his life now seemed to him,
  • Prince Andrew on the eve of battle felt agitated and irritable as he had don_even years before at Austerlitz.
  • He had received and given the orders for next day's battle and had nothin_ore to do. But his thoughts—the simplest, clearest, and therefore mos_errible thoughts—would give him no peace. He knew that tomorrow's battl_ould be the most terrible of all he had taken part in, and for the first tim_n his life the possibility of death presented itself to him—not in relatio_o any worldly matter or with reference to its effect on others, but simply i_elation to himself, to his own soul—vividly, plainly, terribly, and almost a_ certainty. And from the height of this perception all that had previousl_ormented and preoccupied him suddenly became illumined by a cold white ligh_ithout shadows, without perspective, without distinction of outline. All lif_ppeared to him like magic-lantern pictures at which he had long been gazin_y artificial light through a glass. Now he suddenly saw those badly daube_ictures in clear daylight and without a glass. "Yes, yes! There they are,
  • those false images that agitated, enraptured, and tormented me," said he t_imself, passing in review the principal pictures of the magic lantern of lif_nd regarding them now in the cold white daylight of his clear perception o_eath. "There they are, those rudely painted figures that once seemed splendi_nd mysterious. Glory, the good of society, love of a woman, the Fatherlan_tself—how important these pictures appeared to me, with what profound meanin_hey seemed to be filled! And it is all so simple, pale, and crude in the col_hite light of this morning which I feel is dawning for me." The three grea_orrows of his life held his attention in particular: his love for a woman,
  • his father's death, and the French invasion which had overrun half Russia.
  • "Love… that little girl who seemed to me brimming over with mystic forces!
  • Yes, indeed, I loved her. I made romantic plans of love and happiness wit_er! Oh, what a boy I was!" he said aloud bitterly. "Ah me! I believed in som_deal love which was to keep her faithful to me for the whole year of m_bsence! Like the gentle dove in the fable she was to pine apart from me… .
  • But it was much simpler really… . It was all very simple and horrible."
  • "When my father built Bald Hills he thought the place was his: his land, hi_ir, his peasants. But Napoleon came and swept him aside, unconscious of hi_xistence, as he might brush a chip from his path, and his Bald Hills and hi_hole life fell to pieces. Princess Mary says it is a trial sent from above.
  • What is the trial for, when he is not here and will never return? He is no_ere! For whom then is the trial intended? The Fatherland, the destruction o_oscow! And tomorrow I shall be killed, perhaps not even by a Frenchman but b_ne of our own men, by a soldier discharging a musket close to my ear as on_f them did yesterday, and the French will come and take me by head and heel_nd fling me into a hole that I may not stink under their noses, and ne_onditions of life will arise, which will seem quite ordinary to others an_bout which I shall know nothing. I shall not exist… "
  • He looked at the row of birches shining in the sunshine, with their motionles_reen and yellow foliage and white bark. "To die… to be killed tomorrow… Tha_ should not exist… That all this should still be, but no me… ."
  • And the birches with their light and shade, the curly clouds, the smoke of th_ampfires, and all that was around him changed and seemed terrible an_enacing. A cold shiver ran down his spine. He rose quickly, went out of th_hed, and began to walk about.
  • After he had returned, voices were heard outside the shed. "Who's that?" h_ried.
  • The red-nosed Captain Timokhin, formerly Dolokhov's squadron commander, bu_ow from lack of officers a battalion commander, shyly entered the she_ollowed by an adjutant and the regimental paymaster.
  • Prince Andrew rose hastily, listened to the business they had come about, gav_hem some further instructions, and was about to dismiss them when he heard _amiliar, lisping, voice behind the shed.
  • "Devil take it!" said the voice of a man stumbling over something.
  • Prince Andrew looked out of the shed and saw Pierre, who had tripped over _ole on the ground and had nearly fallen, coming his way. It was unpleasant t_rince Andrew to meet people of his own set in general, and Pierre especially,
  • for he reminded him of all the painful moments of his last visit to Moscow.
  • "You? What a surprise!" said he. "What brings you here? This is unexpected!"
  • As he said this his eyes and face expressed more than coldness—they expresse_ostility, which Pierre noticed at once. He had approached the shed full o_nimation, but on seeing Prince Andrew's face he felt constrained and ill a_ase.
  • "I have come… simply… you know… come… it interests me," said Pierre, who ha_o often that day senselessly repeated that word "interesting." "I wish to se_he battle."
  • "Oh yes, and what do the Masonic brothers say about war? How would they sto_t?" said Prince Andrew sarcastically. "Well, and how's Moscow? And my people?
  • Have they reached Moscow at last?" he asked seriously.
  • "Yes, they have. Julie Drubetskaya told me so. I went to see them, but misse_hem. They have gone to your estate near Moscow."