War and Peace Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 19 Summary
Captain Tushin’s cannon company set fire to a nearby village, holding the French army back. Which means, on that side of the battlefield, the Russians have some good cover for retreating.
But on the other side are still a bazillion French soldiers, and they are just slaughtering the Russians.
General Bagration sends a messenger to that side to order retreat, but as soon as the messenger rides off he freaks out. Total terror, panic, and so on. He doesn’t go down to the fighting and doesn’t deliver the message.
Meanwhile, there’s a really funny (well, in a very dark humor kind of way) scene going on down on the side that isn’t getting General Bagration’s message.
No one knows who's in charge down there. It’s one of two guys, both of whom obviously hate each other, and they're just trash-talking and not paying attention to the battle.
Their conversation is one of those “after you,” “no, no, after you,” “no, I insist” things. Except they aren’t holding the door – they’re trying to get the other guy to enter the fighting first. It’s just full-on lunacy.
Meanwhile, the French are attacking and attacking and getting closer and closer.
The two men suddenly both decide to accept the dare and ride down to the front together. Then they stand there, basically playing chicken. Neither one wants to leave first, even though they’re of no use at the front and should go back to their own regiments and give orders or something.
And then...the French surround their troops and they are cut off from the path of retreat.
Well played, idiots.
Oh, and guess what? Turns out this is Nikolai Rostov’s regiment.
Rostov is totally pumped and can’t wait to start fighting and kill some people.
He gallops forward...and...wait for it...immediately gets injured and has his horse killed under him.
Then there is a moving bit of narration from inside his head. At first he can’t figure out what happened. Then he senses some weird weight hanging from his left arm. Suddenly he is surrounded by French soldiers, and one is coming to stab him with a bayonet. He loses his...ahem, cool...and starts going completely mental at the thought that someone wants to kill him. (Seriously, it’s intense.) Remember, he’s at most 18 years old, and probably more like 16. He pictures all the people in his life that love him – his mom, his dad, his sister Natasha – and runs away as fast as possible.
Phew, he just makes it.
He runs into some nearby bushes...where there are a bunch of Russian soldiers.