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."