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Chapter V.17

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In June the battle of Friedland was fought, in which the Pavlograds did not take part, and after that an armistice was proclaimed. Rostov, who felt his friend's absence very much, having no news of him since he left and feeling very anxious about his wound and the progress of his affairs, took advantage of the armistice to get leave to visit Denisov in hospital.

The hospital was in a small Prussian town that had been twice devastated by Russian and French troops. Because it was summer, when it is so beautiful out in the fields, the little town presented a particularly dismal appearance with its broken roofs and fences, its foul streets, tattered inhabitants, and the sick and drunken soldiers wandering about.

The hospital was in a brick building with some of the window frames and panes broken and a courtyard surrounded by the remains of a wooden fence that had been pulled to pieces. Several bandaged soldiers, with pale swollen faces, were sitting or walking about in the sunshine in the yard.

Directly Rostov entered the door he was enveloped by a smell of putrefaction and hospital air. On the stairs he met a Russian army doctor smoking a cigar. The doctor was followed by a Russian assistant.

"I can't tear myself to pieces," the doctor was saying. "Come to Makar Alexeevich in the evening. I shall be there."

The assistant asked some further questions.

"Oh, do the best you can! Isn't it all the same?" The doctor noticed Rostov coming upstairs.

"What do you want, sir?" said the doctor. "What do you want? The bullets having spared you, do you want to try typhus? This is a pesthouse, sir."

"How so?" asked Rostov.

"Typhus, sir. It's death to go in. Only we two, Makeev and I" (he pointed to the assistant), "keep on here. Some five of us doctors have died in this place.... When a new one comes he is done for in a week," said the doctor with evident satisfaction. "Prussian doctors have been invited here, but our allies don't like it at all."

Rostov explained that he wanted to see Major Denisov of the hussars, who was wounded.

"I don't know. I can't tell you, sir. Only think! I am alone in charge of three hospitals with more than four hundred patients! It's well that the charitable Prussian ladies send us two pounds of coffee and some lint each month or we should be lost!" he laughed. "Four hundred, sir, and they're always sending me fresh ones. There are four hundred? Eh?" he asked, turning to the assistant.

The assistant looked fagged out. He was evidently vexed and impatient for the talkative doctor to go.

"Major Denisov," Rostov said again. "He was wounded at Molliten."

"Dead, I fancy. Eh, Makeev?" queried the doctor, in a tone of indifference.

The assistant, however, did not confirm the doctor's words.

"Is he tall and with reddish hair?" asked the doctor.

Rostov described Denisov's appearance.

"There was one like that," said the doctor, as if pleased. "That one is dead, I fancy. However, I'll look up our list. We had a list. Have you got it, Makeev?"

"Makar Alexeevich has the list," answered the assistant. "But if you'll step into the officers' wards you'll see for yourself," he added, turning to Rostov.

"Ah, you'd better not go, sir," said the doctor, "or you may have to stay here yourself."

But Rostov bowed himself away from the doctor and asked the assistant to show him the way.

"Only don't blame me!" the doctor shouted up after him.

Rostov and the assistant went into the dark corridor. The smell was so strong there that Rostov held his nose and had to pause and collect his strength before he could go on. A door opened to the right, and an emaciated sallow man on crutches, barefoot and in underclothing, limped out and, leaning against the doorpost, looked with glittering envious eyes at those who were passing. Glancing in at the door, Rostov saw that the sick and wounded were lying on the floor on straw and overcoats.

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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