War and Peace Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 18 Summary
Nikolai goes to look for Kutuzov in the village where he’s supposed to be. But – spoiler alert! – the village is mostly empty. Just lots of dead and a few wounded scattered around.
Crazy rumors are flying around. Nikolai hears that the emperor has been seriously injured, and also that Kutuzov is dead. Or maybe just injured.
No one knows where anything or anyone is.
Nikolai keeps riding, onto a field covered with dead soldiers.
No one is shooting anymore, since there’s nothing to shoot at, but as soon as Nikolai appears on his horse, a few cannonballs fly his way. He immediately flashes back to his mommy and how she’d be sad to see him being shot at. Yeah, probably.
Finally, outside another village, near a "kitchen ditch" (a.k.a. outdoor toilet), Nikolai sees two elegant gentlemen.
He recognizes one of them as...the emperor!
Nikolai is overjoyed that the emperor isn't wounded but is weirded out that he’s practically alone in this little field.
At first Nikolai wants to rush over to the emperor, deliver his message, and maybe hang out a little bit, but immediately he gets all shy and nervous and feels too inferior to bother him.
And just like that, another captain rides over to the emperor, sits down with him, and tells him some passionately patriotic things. The emperor cries a little bit and they make friends. Nikolai watches all of this, feeling horrible that he blew such a great chance to be the emperor’s buddy. Oh well, too late now.
Meanwhile, the battle is clearly lost.
Dolokhov’s company is trapped on a bridge over a frozen river. They are being killed by French cannon fire and are trying to cross as fast as possible.
Wounded in the arm, Dolokhov jumps off the middle of the bridge, and the ice under him starts to crack. Still, he starts yelling for all the soldiers to jump down onto the ice and off the bridge.
After a few more cannonballs, the soldiers follow his lead – with horrible, disastrous results. The ice breaks under them, and they all drown as cannonballs fall all over the place. It’s pretty gruesome.