Part 25 out of 34
that nobody was right or wrong, the future held nothing, and there was
no escape from this position. Smiling unnaturally and muttering to
himself, he first sat down on the sofa in an attitude of despair, then
rose, went to the door of the reception room and peeped through the
crack, returned flourishing his arms, and took up a book. His
major-domo came in a second time to say that the Frenchman who had
brought the letter from the countess was very anxious to see him if
only for a minute, and that someone from Bazdeev's widow had called to
ask Pierre to take charge of her husband's books, as she herself was
leaving for the country.
"Oh, yes, in a minute; wait... or no! No, of course... go and say
I will come directly," Pierre replied to the major-domo.
But as soon as the man had left the room Pierre took up his hat
which was lying on the table and went out of his study by the other
door. There was no one in the passage. He went along the whole
length of this passage to the stairs and, frowning and rubbing his
forehead with both hands, went down as far as the first landing. The
hall porter was standing at the front door. From the landing where
Pierre stood there was a second staircase leading to the back
entrance. He went down that staircase and out into the yard. No one
had seen him. But there were some carriages waiting, and as soon as
Pierre stepped out of the gate the coachmen and the yard porter
noticed him and raised their caps to him. When he felt he was being
looked at he behaved like an ostrich which hides its head in a bush in
order not to be seen: he hung his head and quickening his pace went
down the street.
Of all the affairs awaiting Pierre that day the sorting of Joseph
Bazdeev's books and papers appeared to him the most necessary.
He hired the first cab he met and told the driver to go to the
Patriarch's Ponds, where the widow Bazdeev's house was.
Continually turning round to look at the rows of loaded carts that
were making their way from all sides out of Moscow, and balancing
his bulky body so as not to slip out of the ramshackle old vehicle,
Pierre, experiencing the joyful feeling of a boy escaping from school,
began to talk to his driver.
The man told him that arms were being distributed today at the
Kremlin and that tomorrow everyone would be sent out beyond the
Three Hills gates and a great battle would be fought there.
Having reached the Patriarch's Ponds Pierre found the Bazdeevs'
house, where he had not been for a long time past. He went up to the
gate. Gerasim, that sallow beardless old man Pierre had seen at
Torzhok five years before with Joseph Bazdeev, came out in answer to
"At home?" asked Pierre.
"Owing to the present state of things Sophia Danilovna has gone to
the Torzhok estate with the children, your excellency."
"I will come in all the same, I have to look through the books,"
"Be so good as to step in. Makar Alexeevich, the brother of my
late master- may the kingdom of heaven be his- has remained here,
but he is in a weak state as you know," said the old servant.
Pierre knew that Makar Alexeevich was Joseph Bazdeev's half-insane
brother and a hard drinker.
"Yes, yes, I know. Let us go in..." said Pierre and entered the
A tall, bald-headed old man with a red nose, wearing a dressing gown
and with galoshes on his bare feet, stood in the anteroom. On seeing
Pierre he muttered something angrily and went away along the passage.
"He was a very clever man but has now grown quite feeble, as your
honor sees," said Gerasim. "Will you step into the study?" Pierre
nodded. "As it was sealed up so it has remained, but Sophia
Danilovna gave orders that if anyone should come from you they were to
have the books."
Pierre went into that gloomy study which he had entered with such
trepidation in his benefactor's lifetime. The room, dusty and
untouched since the death of Joseph Bazdeev was now even gloomier.
Gerasim opened one of the shutters and left the room on tiptoe.
Pierre went round the study, approached the cupboard in which the
manuscripts were kept, and took out what had once been one of the most
important, the holy of holies of the order. This was the authentic
Scotch Acts with Bazdeev's notes and explanations. He sat down at
the dusty writing table, and, having laid the manuscripts before
him, opened them out, closed them, finally pushed them away, and
resting his head on his hand sank into meditation.
Gerasim looked cautiously into the study several times and saw
Pierre always sitting in the same attitude.
More than two hours passed and Gerasim took the liberty of making
a slight noise at the door to attract his attention, but Pierre did
not hear him.
"Is the cabman to be discharged, your honor?"
"Oh yes!" said Pierre, rousing himself and rising hurriedly. "Look
here," he added, taking Gerasim by a button of his coat and looking
down at the old man with moist, shining, and ecstatic eyes, "I say, do
you know that there is going to be a battle tomorrow?"
"We heard so," replied the man.
"I beg you not to tell anyone who I am, and to do what I ask you."
"Yes, your excellency," replied Gerasim. "Will you have something to
"No, but I want something else. I want peasant clothes and a
pistol," said Pierre, unexpectedly blushing.
"Yes, your excellency," said Gerasim after thinking for a moment.
All the rest of that day Pierre spent alone in his benefactor's
study, and Gerasim heard him pacing restlessly from one corner to
another and talking to himself. And he spent the night on a bed made
up for him there.
Gerasim, being a servant who in his time had seen many strange
things, accepted Pierre's taking up his residence in the house without
surprise, and seemed pleased to have someone to wait on. That same
evening- without even asking himself what they were wanted for- he
procured a coachman's coat and cap for Pierre, and promised to get him
the pistol next day. Makar Alexeevich came twice that evening
shuffling along in his galoshes as far as the door and stopped and
looked ingratiatingly at Pierre. But as soon as Pierre turned toward
him he wrapped his dressing gown around him with a shamefaced and
angry look and hurried away. It was when Pierre (wearing the
coachman's coat which Gerasim had procured for him and had disinfected
by steam) was on his way with the old man to buy the pistol at the
Sukharev market that he met the Rostovs.
Kutuzov's order to retreat through Moscow to the Ryazan road was
issued at night on the first of September.
The first troops started at once, and during the night they
marched slowly and steadily without hurry. At daybreak, however, those
nearing the town at the Dorogomilov bridge saw ahead of them masses of
soldiers crowding and hurrying across the bridge, ascending on the
opposite side and blocking the streets and alleys, while endless
masses of troops were bearing down on them from behind, and an
unreasoning hurry and alarm overcame them. They all rushed forward
to the bridge, onto it, and to the fords and the boats. Kutuzov
himself had driven round by side streets to the other side of Moscow.
By ten o'clock in the morning of the second of September, only the
rear guard remained in the Dorogomilov suburb, where they had ample
room. The main army was on the other side of Moscow or beyond it.
At that very time, at ten in the morning of the second of September,
Napoleon was standing among his troops on the Poklonny Hill looking at
the panorama spread out before him. From the twenty-sixth of August to
the second of September, that is from the battle of Borodino to the
entry of the French into Moscow, during the whole of that agitating,
memorable week, there had been the extraordinary autumn weather that
always comes as a surprise, when the sun hangs low and gives more heat
than in spring, when everything shines so brightly in the rare clear
atmosphere that the eyes smart, when the lungs are strengthened and
refreshed by inhaling the aromatic autumn air, when even the nights
are warm, and when in those dark warm nights, golden stars startle and
delight us continually by falling from the sky.
At ten in the morning of the second of September this weather
The brightness of the morning was magical. Moscow seen from the
Poklonny Hill lay spaciously spread out with her river, her gardens,
and her churches, and she seemed to be living her usual life, her
cupolas glittering like stars in the sunlight.
The view of the strange city with its peculiar architecture, such as
he had never seen before, filled Napoleon with the rather envious
and uneasy curiosity men feel when they see an alien form of life that
has no knowledge of them. This city was evidently living with the full
force of its own life. By the indefinite signs which, even at a
distance, distinguish a living body from a dead one, Napoleon from the
Poklonny Hill perceived the throb of life in the town and felt, as
it were, the breathing of that great and beautiful body.
Every Russian looking at Moscow feels her to be a mother; every
foreigner who sees her, even if ignorant of her significance as the
mother city, must feel her feminine character, and Napoleon felt it.
"Cette ville asiatique aux innombrables eglises, Moscou la sainte.
La voila done enfin, cette fameuse ville! Il etait temps,"* said he,
and dismounting he ordered a plan of Moscow to be spread out before
him, and summoned Lelorgne d'Ideville, the interpreter.
*"That Asiatic city of the innumerable churches, holy Moscow! Here
it is then at last, that famous city. It was high time."
"A town captured by the enemy is like a maid who has lost her
honor," thought he (he had said so to Tuchkov at Smolensk). From
that point of view he gazed at the Oriental beauty he had not seen
before. It seemed strange to him that his long-felt wish, which had
seemed unattainable, had at last been realized. In the clear morning
light he gazed now at the city and now at the plan, considering its
details, and the assurance of possessing it agitated and awed him.
"But could it be otherwise?" he thought. "Here is this capital at my
feet. Where is Alexander now, and of what is he thinking? A strange,
beautiful, and majestic city; and a strange and majestic moment! In
what light must I appear to them!" thought he, thinking of his troops.
"Here she is, the reward for all those fainthearted men," he
reflected, glancing at those near him and at the troops who were
approaching and forming up. "One word from me, one movement of my
hand, and that ancient capital of the Tsars would perish. But my
clemency is always ready to descend upon the vanquished. I must be
magnanimous and truly great. But no, it can't be true that I am in
Moscow," he suddenly thought. "Yet here she is lying at my feet,
with her golden domes and crosses scintillating and twinkling in the
sunshine. But I shall spare her. On the ancient monuments of barbarism
and despotism I will inscribe great words of justice and mercy....
It is just this which Alexander will feel most painfully, I know him."
(It seemed to Napoleon that the chief import of what was taking
place lay in the personal struggle between himself and Alexander.)
"From the height of the Kremlin- yes, there is the Kremlin, yes- I
will give them just laws; I will teach them the meaning of true
civilization, I will make generations of boyars remember their
conqueror with love. I will tell the deputation that I did not, and do
not, desire war, that I have waged war only against the false policy
of their court; that I love and respect Alexander and that in Moscow I
will accept terms of peace worthy of myself and of my people. I do not
wish to utilize the fortunes of war to humiliate an honored monarch.
'Boyars,' I will say to them, 'I do not desire war, I desire the peace
and welfare of all my subjects.' However, I know their presence will
inspire me, and I shall speak to them as I always do: clearly,
impressively, and majestically. But can it be true that I am in
Moscow? Yes, there she lies."
"Qu'on m'amene les boyars,"* said he to his suite.
*"Bring the boyars to me."
A general with a brilliant suite galloped off at once to fetch the
Two hours passed. Napoleon had lunched and was again standing in the
same place on the Poklonny Hill awaiting the deputation. His speech to
the boyars had already taken definite shape in his imagination. That
speech was full of dignity and greatness as Napoleon understood it.
He was himself carried away by the tone of magnanimity he intended
to adopt toward Moscow. In his imagination he appointed days for
assemblies at the palace of the Tsars, at which Russian notables and
his own would mingle. He mentally appointed a governor, one who
would win the hearts of the people. Having learned that there were
many charitable institutions in Moscow he mentally decided that he
would shower favors on them all. He thought that, as in Africa he
had to put on a burnoose and sit in a mosque, so in Moscow he must
be beneficent like the Tsars. And in order finally to touch the hearts
of the Russians- and being like all Frenchmen unable to imagine
anything sentimental without a reference to ma chere, ma tendre, ma
pauvre mere* - he decided that he would place an inscription on all
these establishments in large letters: "This establishment is
dedicated to my dear mother." Or no, it should be simply: Maison de ma
Mere,* he concluded. "But am I really in Moscow? Yes, here it
lies before me, but why is the deputation from the city so long in
appearing?" he wondered.
*"My dear, my tender, my poor mother."
* "House of my Mother."
Meanwhile an agitated consultation was being carried on in
whispers among his generals and marshals at the rear of his suite.
Those sent to fetch the deputation had returned with the news that
Moscow was empty, that everyone had left it. The faces of those who
were not conferring together were pale and perturbed. They were not
alarmed by the fact that Moscow had been abandoned by its
inhabitants (grave as that fact seemed), but by the question how to
tell the Emperor- without putting him in the terrible position of
appearing ridiculous- that he had been awaiting the boyars so long
in vain: that there were drunken mobs left in Moscow but no one
else. Some said that a deputation of some sort must be scraped
together, others disputed that opinion and maintained that the Emperor
should first be carefully and skillfully prepared, and then told the
"He will have to be told, all the same," said some gentlemen of
the suite. "But, gentlemen..."
The position was the more awkward because the Emperor, meditating
upon his magnanimous plans, was pacing patiently up and down before
the outspread map, occasionally glancing along the road to Moscow from
under his lifted hand with a bright and proud smile.
"But it's impossible..." declared the gentlemen of the suite,
shrugging their shoulders but not venturing to utter the implied word-
At last the Emperor, tired of futile expectation, his actor's
instinct suggesting to him that the sublime moment having been too
long drawn out was beginning to lose its sublimity, gave a sign with
his hand. A single report of a signaling gun followed, and the troops,
who were already spread out on different sides of Moscow, moved into
the city through Tver, Kaluga, and Dorogomilov gates. Faster and
faster, vying with one another, they moved at the double or at a trot,
vanishing amid the clouds of dust they raised and making the air
ring with a deafening roar of mingling shouts.
Drawn on by the movement of his troops Napoleon rode with them as
far as the Dorogomilov gate, but there again stopped and,
dismounting from his horse, paced for a long time by the
Kammer-Kollezski rampart, awaiting the deputation.
Meanwhile Moscow was empty. There were still people in it, perhaps a
fiftieth part of its former inhabitants had remained, but it was
empty. It was empty in the sense that a dying queenless hive is empty.
In a queenless hive no life is left though to a superficial glance
it seems as much alive as other hives.
The bees circle round a queenless hive in the hot beams of the
midday sun as gaily as around the living hives; from a distance it
smells of honey like the others, and bees fly in and out in the same
way. But one has only to observe that hive to realize that there is no
longer any life in it. The bees do not fly in the same way, the
smell and the sound that meet the beekeeper are not the same. To the
beekeeper's tap on the wall of the sick hive, instead of the former
instant unanimous humming of tens of thousands of bees with their
abdomens threateningly compressed, and producing by the rapid
vibration of their wings an aerial living sound, the only reply is a
disconnected buzzing from different parts of the deserted hive. From
the alighting board, instead of the former spirituous fragrant smell
of honey and venom, and the warm whiffs of crowded life, comes an odor
of emptiness and decay mingling with the smell of honey. There are
no longer sentinels sounding the alarm with their abdomens raised, and
ready to die in defense of the hive. There is no longer the measured
quiet sound of throbbing activity, like the sound of boiling water,
but diverse discordant sounds of disorder. In and out of the hive long
black robber bees smeared with honey fly timidly and shiftily. They do
not sting, but crawl away from danger. Formerly only bees laden with
honey flew into the hive, and they flew out empty; now they fly out
laden. The beekeeper opens the lower part of the hive and peers in.
Instead of black, glossy bees- tamed by toil, clinging to one
another's legs and drawing out the wax, with a ceaseless hum of labor-
that used to hang in long clusters down to the floor of the hive,
drowsy shriveled bees crawl about separately in various directions
on the floor and walls of the hive. Instead of a neatly glued floor,
swept by the bees with the fanning of their wings, there is a floor
littered with bits of wax, excrement, dying bees scarcely moving their
legs, and dead ones that have not been cleared away.
The beekeeper opens the upper part of the hive and examines the
super. Instead of serried rows of bees sealing up every gap in the
combs and keeping the brood warm, he sees the skillful complex
structures of the combs, but no longer in their former state of
purity. All is neglected and foul. Black robber bees are swiftly and
stealthily prowling about the combs, and the short home bees,
shriveled and listless as if they were old, creep slowly about without
trying to hinder the robbers, having lost all motive and all sense
of life. Drones, bumblebees, wasps, and butterflies knock awkwardly
against the walls of the hive in their flight. Here and there among
the cells containing dead brood and honey an angry buzzing can
sometimes be heard. Here and there a couple of bees, by force of habit
and custom cleaning out the brood cells, with efforts beyond their
strength laboriously drag away a dead bee or bumblebee without knowing
why they do it. In another corner two old bees are languidly fighting,
or cleaning themselves, or feeding one another, without themselves
knowing whether they do it with friendly or hostile intent. In a third
place a crowd of bees, crushing one another, attack some victim and
fight and smother it, and the victim, enfeebled or killed, drops
from above slowly and lightly as a feather, among the heap of corpses.
The keeper opens the two center partitions to examine the brood cells.
In place of the former close dark circles formed by thousands of
bees sitting back to back and guarding the high mystery of generation,
he sees hundreds of dull, listless, and sleepy shells of bees. They
have almost all died unawares, sitting in the sanctuary they had
guarded and which is now no more. They reek of decay and death. Only a
few of them still move, rise, and feebly fly to settle on the
enemy's hand, lacking the spirit to die stinging him; the rest are
dead and fall as lightly as fish scales. The beekeeper closes the
hive, chalks a mark on it, and when he has time tears out its contents
and burns it clean.
So in the same way Moscow was empty when Napoleon, weary, uneasy,
and morose, paced up and down in front of the Kammer-Kollezski
rampart, awaiting what to his mind was a necessary, if but formal,
observance of the proprieties- a deputation.
In various corners of Moscow there still remained a few people
aimlessly moving about, following their old habits and hardly aware of
what they were doing.
When with due circumspection Napoleon was informed that Moscow was
empty, he looked angrily at his informant, turned away, and silently
continued to walk to and fro.
"My carriage!" he said.
He took his seat beside the aide-de-camp on duty and drove into
the suburb. "Moscow deserted!" he said to himself. "What an incredible
He did not drive into the town, but put up at an inn in the
The coup de theatre had not come off.
The Russian troops were passing through Moscow from two o'clock at
night till two in the afternoon and bore away with them the wounded
and the last of the inhabitants who were leaving.
The greatest crush during the movement of the troops took place at
the Stone, Moskva, and Yauza bridges.
While the troops, dividing into two parts when passing around the
Kremlin, were thronging the Moskva and the Stone bridges, a great many
soldiers, taking advantage of the stoppage and congestion, turned back
from the bridges and slipped stealthily and silently past the church
of Vasili the Beatified and under the Borovitski gate, back up the
hill to the Red Square where some instinct told them they could easily
take things not belonging to them. Crowds of the kind seen at cheap
sales filled all the passages and alleys of the Bazaar. But there were
no dealers with voices of ingratiating affability inviting customers
to enter; there were no hawkers, nor the usual motley crowd of
female purchasers- but only soldiers, in uniforms and overcoats though
without muskets, entering the Bazaar empty-handed and silently
making their way out through its passages with bundles. Tradesmen
and their assistants (of whom there were but few) moved about among
the soldiers quite bewildered. They unlocked their shops and locked
them up again, and themselves carried goods away with the help their
assistants. On the square in front of the Bazaar were drummers beating
the muster call. But the roll of the drums did not make the looting
soldiers run in the direction of the drum as formerly, but made
them, on the contrary, run farther away. Among the soldiers in the
shops and passages some men were to be seen in gray coats, with
closely shaven heads. Two officers, one with a scarf over his
uniform and mounted on a lean, dark-gray horse, the other in an
overcoat and on foot, stood at the corner of Ilyinka Street,
talking. A third officer galloped up to them.
"The general orders them all to be driven out at once, without fail.
This is outrageous! Half the men have dispersed."
"Where are you off to?... Where?..." he shouted to three infantrymen
without muskets who, holding up the skirts of their overcoats, were
slipping past him into the Bazaar passage. "Stop, you rascals!"
"But how are you going to stop them?" replied another officer.
"There is no getting them together. The army should push on before the
rest bolt, that's all!"
"How can one push on? They are stuck there, wedged on the bridge,
and don't move. Shouldn't we put a cordon round to prevent the rest
from running away?"
"Come, go in there and drive them out!" shouted the senior officer.
The officer in the scarf dismounted, called up a drummer, and went
with him into the arcade. Some soldiers started running away in a
group. A shopkeeper with red pimples on his cheeks near the nose,
and a calm, persistent, calculating expression on his plump face,
hurriedly and ostentatiously approached the officer, swinging his
"Your honor!" said he. "Be so good as to protect us! We won't grudge
trifles, you are welcome to anything- we shall be delighted!
Pray!... I'll fetch a piece of cloth at once for such an honorable
gentleman, or even two pieces with pleasure. For we feel how it is;
but what's all this- sheer robbery! If you please, could not guards be
placed if only to let us close the shop...."
Several shopkeepers crowded round the officer.
"Eh, what twaddle!" said one of them, a thin, stern-looking man.
"When one's head is gone one doesn't weep for one's hair! Take what
any of you like!" And flourishing his arm energetically he turned
sideways to the officer.
"It's all very well for you, Ivan Sidorych, to talk," said the first
tradesman angrily. "Please step inside, your honor!"
"Talk indeed!" cried the thin one. "In my three shops here I have
a hundred thousand rubles' worth of goods. Can they be saved when
the army has gone? Eh, what people! 'Against God's might our hands
"Come inside, your honor!" repeated the tradesman, bowing.
The officer stood perplexed and his face showed indecision.
"It's not my business!" he exclaimed, and strode on quickly down one
of the passages.
From one open shop came the sound of blows and vituperation, and
just as the officer came up to it a man in a gray coat with a shaven
head was flung out violently.
This man, bent double, rushed past the tradesman and the officer.
The officer pounced on the soldiers who were in the shops, but at that
moment fearful screams reached them from the huge crowd on the
Moskva bridge and the officer ran out into the square.
"What is it? What is it?" he asked, but his comrade was already
galloping off past Vasili the Beatified in the direction from which
the screams came.
The officer mounted his horse and rode after him. When he reached
the bridge he saw two unlimbered guns, the infantry crossing the
bridge, several overturned carts, and frightened and laughing faces
among the troops. Beside the cannon a cart was standing to which two
horses were harnessed. Four borzois with collars were pressing close
to the wheels. The cart was loaded high, and at the very top, beside a
child's chair with its legs in the air, sat a peasant woman uttering
piercing and desperate shrieks. He was told by his fellow officers
that the screams of the crowd and the shrieks of the woman were due to
the fact that General Ermolov, coming up to the crowd and learning
that soldiers were dispersing among the shops while crowds of
civilians blocked the bridge, had ordered two guns to be unlimbered
and made a show of firing at the bridge. The crowd, crushing one
another, upsetting carts, and shouting and squeezing desperately,
had cleared off the bridge and the troops were now moving forward.
Meanwhile, the city itself was deserted. There was hardly anyone
in the streets. The gates and shops were all closed, only here and
there round the taverns solitary shouts or drunken songs could be
heard. Nobody drove through the streets and footsteps were rarely
heard. The Povarskaya was quite still and deserted. The huge courtyard
of the Rostovs' house was littered with wisps of hay and with dung
from the horses, and not a soul was to be seen there. In the great
drawing room of the house, which had been left with all it
contained, were two people. They were the yard porter Ignat, and the
page boy Mishka, Vasilich's grandson who had stayed in Moscow with his
grandfather. Mishka had opened the clavichord and was strumming on
it with one finger. The yard porter, his arms akimbo, stood smiling
with satisfaction before the large mirror.
"Isn't it fine, eh, Uncle Ignat?" said the boy, suddenly beginning
to strike the keyboard with both hands.
"Only fancy!" answered Ignat, surprised at the broadening grin on
his face in the mirror.
"Impudence! Impudence!" they heard behind them the voice of Mavra
Kuzminichna who had entered silently. "How he's grinning, the fat mug!
Is that what you're here for? Nothing's cleared away down there and
Vasilich is worn out. Just you wait a bit!"
Ignat left off smiling, adjusted his belt, and went out of the
room with meekly downcast eyes.
"Aunt, I did it gently," said the boy.
"I'll give you something gently, you monkey you!" cried Mavra
Kuzminichna, raising her arm threateningly. "Go and get the samovar to
boil for your grandfather."
Mavra Kuzminichna flicked the dust off the clavichord and closed it,
and with a deep sigh left the drawing room and locked its main door.
Going out into the yard she paused to consider where she should go
next- to drink tea in the servants' wing with Vasilich, or into the
storeroom to put away what still lay about.
She heard the sound of quick footsteps in the quiet street.
Someone stopped at the gate, and the latch rattled as someone tried to
open it. Mavra Kuzminichna went to the gate.
"Who do you want?"
"The count- Count Ilya Andreevich Rostov."
"And who are you?"
"An officer, I have to see him," came the reply in a pleasant,
well-bred Russian voice.
Mavra Kuzminichna opened the gate and an officer of eighteen, with
the round face of a Rostov, entered the yard.
"They have gone away, sir. Went away yesterday at vespertime,"
said Mavra Kuzminichna cordially.
The young officer standing in the gateway, as if hesitating
whether to enter or not, clicked his tongue.
"Ah, how annoying!" he muttered. "I should have come yesterday....
Ah, what a pity."
Meanwhile, Mavra Kuzminichna was attentively and sympathetically
examining the familiar Rostov features of the young man's face, his
tattered coat and trodden-down boots.
"What did you want to see the count for?" she asked.
"Oh well... it can't be helped!" said he in a tone of vexation and
placed his hand on the gate as if to leave.
He again paused in indecision.
"You see," he suddenly said, "I am a kinsman of the count's and he
has been very kind to me. As you see" (he glanced with an amused air
and good-natured smile at his coat and boots) "my things are worn
out and I have no money, so I was going to ask the count..."
Mavra Kuzminichna did not let him finish.
"Just wait a minute, sir. One little moment," said she.
And as soon as the officer let go of the gate handle she turned and,
hurrying away on her old legs, went through the back yard to the
While Mavra Kuzminichna was running to her room the officer walked
about the yard gazing at his worn-out boots with lowered head and a
faint smile on his lips. "What a pity I've missed Uncle! What a nice
old woman! Where has she run off to? And how am I to find the
nearest way to overtake my regiment, which must by now be getting near
the Rogozhski gate?" thought he. Just then Mavra Kuzminichna
appeared from behind the corner of the house with a frightened yet
resolute look, carrying a rolled-up check kerchief in her hand.
While still a few steps from the officer she unfolded the kerchief and
took out of it a white twenty-five-ruble assignat and hastily handed
it to him.
"If his excellency had been at home, as a kinsman he would of
course... but as it is..."
Mavra Kuzminichna grew abashed and confused. The officer did not
decline, but took the note quietly and thanked her.
"If the count had been at home..." Mavra Kuzminichna went on
apologetically. "Christ be with you, sir! May God preserve you!"
said she, bowing as she saw him out.
Swaying his head and smiling as if amused at himself, the officer
ran almost at a trot through the deserted streets toward the Yauza
bridge to overtake his regiment.
But Mavra Kuzminichna stood at the closed gate for some time with
moist eyes, pensively swaying her head and feeling an unexpected
flow of motherly tenderness and pity for the unknown young officer.
From an unfinished house on the Varvarka, the ground floor of
which was a dramshop, came drunken shouts and songs. On benches
round the tables in a dirty little room sat some ten factory hands.
Tipsy and perspiring, with dim eyes and wide-open mouths, they were
all laboriously singing some song or other. They were singing
discordantly, arduously, and with great effort, evidently not
because they wished to sing, but because they wanted to show they were
drunk and on a spree. One, a tall, fair-haired lad in a clean blue
coat, was standing over the others. His face with its fine straight
nose would have been handsome had it not been for his thin,
compressed, twitching lips and dull, gloomy, fixed eyes. Evidently
possessed by some idea, he stood over those who were singing, and
solemnly and jerkily flourished above their heads his white arm with
the sleeve turned up to the elbow, trying unnaturally to spread out
his dirty fingers. The sleeve of his coat kept slipping down and he
always carefully rolled it up again with his left hand, as if it
were most important that the sinewy white arm he was flourishing
should be bare. In the midst of the song cries were heard, and
fighting and blows in the passage and porch. The tall lad waved his
"Stop it!" he exclaimed peremptorily. "There's a fight, lads!"
And, still rolling up his sleeve, he went out to the porch.
The factory hands followed him. These men, who under the
leadership of the tall lad were drinking in the dramshop that morning,
had brought the publican some skins from the factory and for this
had had drink served them. The blacksmiths from a neighboring
smithy, hearing the sounds of revelry in the tavern and supposing it
to have been broken into, wished to force their way in too and a fight
in the porch had resulted.
The publican was fighting one of the smiths at the door, and when
the workmen came out the smith, wrenching himself free from the tavern
keeper, fell face downward on the pavement.
Another smith tried to enter the doorway, pressing against the
publican with his chest.
The lad with the turned-up sleeve gave the smith a blow in the
face and cried wildly: "They're fighting us, lads!"
At that moment the first smith got up and, scratching his bruised
face to make it bleed, shouted in a tearful voice: "Police! Murder!...
They've killed a man, lads!"
"Oh, gracious me, a man beaten to death- killed!..." screamed a
woman coming out of a gate close by.
A crowd gathered round the bloodstained smith.
"Haven't you robbed people enough- taking their last shirts?" said a
voice addressing the publican. "What have you killed a man for, you
The tall lad, standing in the porch, turned his bleared eyes from
the publican to the smith and back again as if considering whom he
ought to fight now.
"Murderer!" he shouted suddenly to the publican. "Bind him, lads!"
"I daresay you would like to bind me!" shouted the publican, pushing
away the men advancing on him, and snatching his cap from his head
he flung it on the ground.
As if this action had some mysterious and menacing significance, the
workmen surrounding the publican paused in indecision.
"I know the law very well, mates! I'll take the matter to the
captain of police. You think I won't get to him? Robbery is not
permitted to anybody now a days!" shouted the publican, picking up his
"Come along then! Come along then!" the publican and the tall
young fellow repeated one after the other, and they moved up the
The bloodstained smith went beside them. The factory hands and
others followed behind, talking and shouting.
At the corner of the Moroseyka, opposite a large house with closed
shutters and bearing a bootmaker's signboard, stood a score of thin,
worn-out, gloomy-faced bootmakers, wearing overalls and long
"He should pay folks off properly," a thin workingman, with frowning
brows and a straggly beard, was saying.
"But he's sucked our blood and now he thinks he's quit of us. He's
been misleading us all the week and now that he's brought us to this
pass he's made off."
On seeing the crowd and the bloodstained man the workman ceased
speaking, and with eager curiosity all the bootmakers joined the
"Where are all the folks going?"
"Why, to the police, of course!"
"I say, is it true that we have been beaten?" "And what did you
think? Look what folks are saying."
Questions and answers were heard. The publican, taking advantage
of the increased crowd, dropped behind and returned to his tavern.
The tall youth, not noticing the disappearance of his foe, waved his
bare arm and went on talking incessantly, attracting general attention
to himself. It was around him that the people chiefly crowded,
expecting answers from him to the questions that occupied all their
"He must keep order, keep the law, that's what the government is
there for. Am I not right, good Christians?" said the tall youth, with
a scarcely perceptible smile. "He thinks there's no government! How
can one do without government? Or else there would be plenty who'd rob
"Why talk nonsense?" rejoined voices in the crowd. "Will they give
up Moscow like this? They told you that for fun, and you believed
it! Aren't there plenty of troops on the march? Let him in, indeed!
That's what the government is for. You'd better listen to what
people are saying," said some of the mob pointing to the tall youth.
By the wall of China-Town a smaller group of people were gathered
round a man in a frieze coat who held a paper in his hand.
"An ukase, they are reading an ukase! Reading an ukase!" cried
voices in the crowd, and the people rushed toward the reader.
The man in the frieze coat was reading the broadsheet of August 31
When the crowd collected round him he seemed confused, but at the
demand of the tall lad who had pushed his way up to him, he began in a
rather tremulous voice to read the sheet from the beginning.
"Early tomorrow I shall go to his Serene Highness," he read
("Sirin Highness," said the tall fellow with a triumphant smile on his
lips and a frown on his brow), "to consult with him to act, and to aid
the army to exterminate these scoundrels. We too will take part..."
the reader went on, and then paused ("Do you see," shouted the youth
victoriously, "he's going to clear up the whole affair for
you...."), "in destroying them, and will send these visitors to the
devil. I will come back to dinner, and we'll set to work. We will
do, completely do, and undo these scoundrels."
The last words were read out in the midst of complete silence. The
tall lad hung his head gloomily. It was evident that no one had
understood the last part. In particular, the words "I will come back
to dinner," evidently displeased both reader and audience. The
people's minds were tuned to a high pitch and this was too simple
and needlessly comprehensible- it was what any one of them might
have said and therefore was what an ukase emanating from the highest
authority should not say.
They all stood despondent and silent. The tall youth moved his
lips and swayed from side to side.
"We should ask him... that's he himself?"... "Yes, ask him
indeed!... Why not? He'll explain"... voices in the rear of the
crowd were suddenly heard saying, and the general attention turned
to the police superintendent's trap which drove into the square
attended by two mounted dragoons.
The superintendent of police, who had that morning by Count
Rostopchin's orders to burn the barges and had in connection with that
matter acquired a large sum of money which was at that moment in his
pocket, on seeing a crowd bearing down upon him told his coachman to
"What people are these?" he shouted to the men, who were moving
singly and timidly in the direction of his trap.
"What people are these?" he shouted again, receiving no answer.
"Your honor..." replied the shopman in the frieze coat, "your honor,
in accord with the proclamation of his highest excellency the count,
they desire to serve, not sparing their lives, and it is not any
kind of riot, but as his highest excellence said..."
"The count has not left, he is here, and an order will be issued
concerning you," said the superintendent of police. "Go on!" he
ordered his coachman.
The crowd halted, pressing around those who had heard what the
superintendent had said, and looking at the departing trap.
The superintendent of police turned round at that moment with a
scared look, said something to his coachman, and his horses
increased their speed.
"It's a fraud, lads! Lead the way to him, himself!" shouted the tall
youth. "Don't let him go, lads! Let him answer us! Keep him!"
shouted different people and the people dashed in pursuit of the trap.
Following the superintendent of police and talking loudly the
crowd went in the direction of the Lubyanka Street.
"There now, the gentry and merchants have gone away and left us to
perish. Do they think we're dogs?" voices in the crowd were heard
saying more and more frequently.
On the evening of the first of September, after his interview with
Kutuzov, Count Rostopchin had returned to Moscow mortified and
offended because he had not been invited to attend the council of war,
and because Kutuzov had paid no attention to his offer to take part in
the defense of the city; amazed also at the novel outlook revealed
to him at the camp, which treated the tranquillity of the capital
and its patriotic fervor as not merely secondary but quite
irrelevant and unimportant matters. Distressed, offended, and
surprised by all this, Rostopchin had returned to Moscow. After supper
he lay down on a sofa without undressing, and was awakened soon
after midnight by a courier bringing him a letter from Kutuzov. This
letter requested the count to send police officers to guide the troops
through the town, as the army was retreating to the Ryazan road beyond
Moscow. This was not news to Rostopchin. He had known that Moscow
would be abandoned not merely since his interview the previous day
with Kutuzov on the Poklonny Hill but ever since the battle of
Borodino, for all the generals who came to Moscow after that battle
had said unanimously that it was impossible to fight another battle,
and since then the government property had been removed every night,
and half the inhabitants had left the city with Rostopchin's own
permission. Yet all the same this information astonished and irritated
the count, coming as it did in the form of a simple note with an order
from Kutuzov, and received at night, breaking in on his beauty sleep.
When later on in his memoirs Count Rostopchin explained his
actions at this time, he repeatedly says that he was then actuated
by two important considerations: to maintain tranquillity in Moscow
and expedite the departure of the inhabitants. If one accepts this
twofold aim all Rostopchin's actions appear irreproachable. "Why
were the holy relics, the arms, ammunition, gunpowder, and stores of
corn not removed? Why were thousands of inhabitants deceived into
believing that Moscow would not be given up- and thereby ruined?"
"To presence the tranquillity of the city," explains Count Rostopchin.
"Why were bundles of useless papers from the government offices, and
Leppich's balloon and other articles removed?" "To leave the town
empty," explains Count Rostopchin. One need only admit that public
tranquillity is in danger and any action finds a justification.
All the horrors of the reign of terror were based only on solicitude
for public tranquillity.
On what, then, was Count Rostopchin's fear for the tranquillity of
Moscow based in 1812? What reason was there for assuming any
probability of an uprising in the city? The inhabitants were leaving
it and the retreating troops were filling it. Why should that cause
the masses to riot?
Neither in Moscow nor anywhere in Russia did anything resembling
an insurrection ever occur when the enemy entered a town. More than
ten thousand people were still in Moscow on the first and second of
September, and except for a mob in the governor's courtyard, assembled
there at his bidding, nothing happened. It is obvious that there would
have been even less reason to expect a disturbance among the people if
after the battle of Borodino, when the surrender of Moscow became
certain or at least probable, Rostopchin instead of exciting the
people by distributing arms and broadsheets had taken steps to
remove all the holy relics, the gunpowder, munitions, and money, and
had told the population plainly that the town would be abandoned.
Rostopchin, though he had patriotic sentiments, was a sanguine and
impulsive man who had always moved in the highest administrative
circles and had no understanding at all of the people he supposed
himself to be guiding. Ever since the enemy's entry into Smolensk he
had in imagination been playing the role of director of the popular
feeling of "the heart of Russia." Not only did it seem to him (as to
all administrators) that he controlled the external actions of
Moscow's inhabitants, but he also thought he controlled their mental
attitude by means of his broadsheets and posters, written in a
coarse tone which the people despise in their own class and do not
understand from those in authority. Rostopchin was so pleased with the
fine role of leader of popular feeling, and had grown so used to it,
that the necessity of relinquishing that role and abandoning Moscow
without any heroic display took him unawares and he suddenly felt
the ground slip away from under his feet, so that he positively did
not know what to do. Though he knew it was coming, he did not till the
last moment wholeheartedly believe that Moscow would be abandoned, and
did not prepare for it. The inhabitants left against his wishes. If
the government offices were removed, this was only done on the
demand of officials to whom the count yielded reluctantly. He was
absorbed in the role he had created for himself. As is often the
case with those gifted with an ardent imagination, though he had
long known that Moscow would be abandoned he knew it only with his
intellect, he did not believe it in his heart and did not adapt
himself mentally to this new position of affairs.
All his painstaking and energetic activity (in how far it was useful
and had any effect on the people is another question) had been
simply directed toward arousing in the masses his own feeling of
patriotic hatred of the French.
But when events assumed their true historical character, when
expressing hatred for the French in words proved insufficient, when it
was not even possible to express that hatred by fighting a battle,
when self-confidence was of no avail in relation to the one question
before Moscow, when the whole population streamed out of Moscow as one
man, abandoning their belongings and proving by that negative action
all the depth of their national feeling, then the role chosen by
Rostopchin suddenly appeared senseless. He unexpectedly felt himself
ridiculous, weak, and alone, with no ground to stand on.
When, awakened from his sleep, he received that cold, peremptory
note from Kutuzov, he felt the more irritated the more he felt himself
to blame. All that he had been specially put in charge of, the state
property which he should have removed, was still in Moscow and it
was no longer possible to take the whole of it away.
"Who is to blame for it? Who has let things come to such a pass?" he
ruminated. "Not I, of course. I had everything ready. I had Moscow
firmly in hand. And this is what they have let it come to! Villains!
Traitors!" he thought, without clearly defining who the villains and
traitors were, but feeling it necessary to hate those traitors whoever
they might be who were to blame for the false and ridiculous
position in which he found himself.
All that night Count Rostopchin issued orders, for which people came
to him from all parts of Moscow. Those about him had never seen the
count so morose and irritable.
"Your excellency, the Director of the Registrar's Department has
sent for instructions... From the Consistory, from the Senate, from
the University, from the Foundling Hospital, the Suffragan has sent...
asking for information.... What are your orders about the Fire
Brigade? From the governor of the prison... from the superintendent of
the lunatic asylum..." All night long such announcements were
continually being received by the count.
To all these inquiries he gave brief and angry replies indicating
that orders from him were not now needed, that the whole affair,
carefully prepared by him, had now been ruined by somebody, and that
that somebody would have to bear the whole responsibility for all that
"Oh, tell that blockhead," he said in reply to the question from the
Registrar's Department, "that he should remain to guard his documents.
Now why are you asking silly questions about the Fire Brigade? They
have horses, let them be off to Vladimir, and not leave them to the
"Your excellency, the superintendent of the lunatic asylum has come:
what are your commands?"
"My commands? Let them go away, that's all.... And let the
lunatics out into the town. When lunatics command our armies God
evidently means these other madmen to be free."
In reply to an inquiry about the convicts in the prison, Count
Rostopchin shouted angrily at the governor:
"Do you expect me to give you two battalions- which we have not got-
for a convoy? Release them, that's all about it!"
"Your excellency, there are some political prisoners, Meshkov,
"Vereshchagin! Hasn't he been hanged yet?" shouted Rostopchin.
"Bring him to me!"
Toward nine o'clock in the morning, when the troops were already
moving through Moscow, nobody came to the count any more for
instructions. Those who were able to get away were going of their
own accord, those who remained behind decided for themselves what they
The count ordered his carriage that he might drive to Sokolniki, and
sat in his study with folded hands, morose, sallow, and taciturn.
In quiet and untroubled times it seems to every administrator that
it is only by his efforts that the whole population under his rule
is kept going, and in this consciousness of being indispensable
every administrator finds the chief reward of his labor and efforts.
While the sea of history remains calm the ruler-administrator in his
frail bark, holding on with a boat hook to the ship of the people
and himself moving, naturally imagines that his efforts move the
ship he is holding on to. But as soon as a storm arises and the sea
begins to heave and the ship to move, such a delusion is no longer
possible. The ship moves independently with its own enormous motion,
the boat hook no longer reaches the moving vessel, and suddenly the
administrator, instead of appearing a ruler and a source of power,
becomes an insignificant, useless, feeble man.
Rostopchin felt this, and it was this which exasperated him.
The superintendent of police, whom the crowd had stopped, went in to
see him at the same time as an adjutant who informed the count that
the horses were harnessed. They were both pale, and the superintendent
of police, after reporting that he had executed the instructions he
had received, informed the count that an immense crowd had collected
in the courtyard and wished to see him.
Without saying a word Rostopchin rose and walked hastily to his
light, luxurious drawing room, went to the balcony door, took hold
of the handle, let it go again, and went to the window from which he
had a better view of the whole crowd. The tall lad was standing in
front, flourishing his arm and saying something with a stern look. The
blood stained smith stood beside him with a gloomy face. A drone of
voices was audible through the closed window.
"Is my carriage ready?" asked Rostopchin, stepping back from the
"It is, your excellency," replied the adjutant.
Rostopchin went again to the balcony door.
"But what do they want?" he asked the superintendent of police.
"Your excellency, they say they have got ready, according to your
orders, to go against the French, and they shouted something about
treachery. But it is a turbulent crowd, your excellency- I hardly
managed to get away from it. Your excellency, I venture to suggest..."
"You may go. I don't need you to tell me what to do!" exclaimed
He stood by the balcony door looking at the crowd.
"This is what they have done with Russia! This is what they have
done with me!" thought he, full of an irrepressible fury that welled
up within him against the someone to whom what was happening might
be attributed. As often happens with passionate people, he was
mastered by anger but was still seeking an object on which to vent it.
"Here is that mob, the dregs of the people," he thought as he gazed at
the crowd: "this rabble they have roused by their folly! They want a
victim," he thought as he looked at the tall lad flourishing his
arm. And this thought occurred to him just because he himself
desired a victim, something on which to vent his rage.
"Is the carriage ready?" he asked again.
"Yes, your excellency. What are your orders about Vereshchagin? He
is waiting at the porch," said the adjutant.
"Ah!" exclaimed Rostopchin, as if struck by an unexpected
And rapidly opening the door he went resolutely out onto the
balcony. The talking instantly ceased, hats and caps were doffed,
and all eyes were raised to the count.
"Good morning, lads!" said the count briskly and loudly. "Thank
you for coming. I'll come out to you in a moment, but we must first
settle with the villain. We must punish the villain who has caused the
ruin of Moscow. Wait for me!"
And the count stepped as briskly back into the room and slammed
the door behind him.
A murmur of approbation and satisfaction ran through the crowd.
"He'll settle with all the villains, you'll see! And you said the
French... He'll show you what law is!" the mob were saying as if
reproving one another for their lack of confidence.
A few minutes later an officer came hurriedly out of the front door,
gave an order, and the dragoons formed up in line. The crowd moved
eagerly from the balcony toward the porch. Rostopchin, coming out
there with quick angry steps, looked hastily around as if seeking
"Where is he?" he inquired. And as he spoke he saw a young man
coming round the corner of the house between two dragoons. He had a
long thin neck, and his head, that had been half shaved, was again
covered by short hair. This young man was dressed in a threadbare blue
cloth coat lined with fox fur, that had once been smart, and dirty
hempen convict trousers, over which were pulled his thin, dirty,
trodden-down boots. On his thin, weak legs were heavy chains which
hampered his irresolute movements.
"Ah!" said Rostopchin, hurriedly turning away his eyes from the
young man in the fur-lined coat and pointing to the bottom step of the
porch. "Put him there."
The young man in his clattering chains stepped clumsily to the
spot indicated, holding away with one finger the coat collar which
chafed his neck, turned his long neck twice this way and that, sighed,
and submissively folded before him his thin hands, unused to work.
For several seconds while the young man was taking his place on
the step the silence continued. Only among the back rows of the
people, who were all pressing toward the one spot, could sighs,
groans, and the shuffling of feet be heard.
While waiting for the young man to take his place on the step
Rostopchin stood frowning and rubbing his face with his hand.
"Lads!" said he, with a metallic ring in his voice. "This man,
Vereshchagin, is the scoundrel by whose doing Moscow is perishing."
The young man in the fur-lined coat, stooping a little, stood in a
submissive attitude, his fingers clasped before him. His emaciated
young face, disfigured by the half-shaven head, hung down
hopelessly. At the count's first words he raised it slowly and
looked up at him as if wishing to say something or at least to meet
his eye. But Rostopchin did not look at him. A vein in the young man's
long thin neck swelled like a cord and went blue behind the ear, and
suddenly his face flushed.
All eyes were fixed on him. He looked at the crowd, and rendered
more hopeful by the expression he read on the faces there, he smiled
sadly and timidly, and lowering his head shifted his feet on the step.
"He has betrayed his Tsar and his country, he had gone over to
Bonaparte. He alone of all the Russians has disgraced the Russian
name, he has caused Moscow to perish," said Rostopchin in a sharp,
even voice, but suddenly he glanced down at Vereshchagin who continued
to stand in the same submissive attitude. As if inflamed by the sight,
he raised his arm and addressed the people, almost shouting:
"Deal with him as you think fit! I hand him over to you."
The crowd remained silent and only pressed closer and closer to
one another. To keep one another back, to breathe in that stifling
atmosphere, to be unable to stir, and to await something unknown,
uncomprehended, and terrible, was becoming unbearable. Those
standing in front, who had seen and heard what had taken place
before them, all stood with wide open eyes and mouths, straining
with all their strength, and held back the crowd that was pushing
"Beat him!... Let the traitor perish and not disgrace the Russian
name!" shouted Rostopchin. "Cut him down. I command it."
Hearing not so much the words as the angry tone of Rostopchin's
voice, the crowd moaned and heaved forward, but again paused.
"Count!" exclaimed the timid yet theatrical voice of Vereshchagin in
the midst of the momentary silence that ensued, "Count! One God is
above us both...." He lifted his head and again the thick vein in
his thin neck filled with blood and the color rapidly came and went in
He did not finish what he wished to say.
"Cut him down! I command it..." shouted Rostopchin, suddenly growing
pale like Vereshchagin.
"Draw sabers!" cried the dragoon officer, drawing his own.
Another still stronger wave flowed through the crowd and reaching
the front ranks carried it swaying to the very steps of the porch. The
tall youth, with a stony look on his face, and rigid and uplifted arm,
stood beside Vereshchagin.
"Saber him!" the dragoon officer almost whispered.
And one of the soldiers, his face all at once distorted with fury,
struck Vereshchagin on the head with the blunt side of his saber.
"Ah!" cried Vereshchagin in meek surprise, looking round with a
frightened glance as if not understanding why this was done to him.
A similar moan of surprise and horror ran through the crowd. "O Lord!"
exclaimed a sorrowful voice.
But after the exclamation of surprise that had escaped from
Vereshchagin he uttered a plaintive cry of pain, and that cry was
fatal. The barrier of human feeling, strained to the utmost, that
had held the crowd in check suddenly broke. The crime had begun and
must now be completed. The plaintive moan of reproach was drowned by
the threatening and angry roar of the crowd. Like the seventh and last
wave that shatters a ship, that last irresistible wave burst from
the rear and reached the front ranks, carrying them off their feet and
engulfing them all. The dragoon was about to repeat his blow.
Vereshchagin with a cry of horror, covering his head with his hands,
rushed toward the crowd. The tall youth, against whom he stumbled,
seized his thin neck with his hands and, yelling wildly, fell with him
under the feet of the pressing, struggling crowd.
Some beat and tore at Vereshchagin, others at the tall youth. And
the screams of those that were being trampled on and of those who
tried to rescue the tall lad only increased the fury of the crowd.
It was a long time before the dragoons could extricate the bleeding
youth, beaten almost to death. And for a long time, despite the
feverish haste with which the mob tried to end the work that had
been begun, those who were hitting, throttling, and tearing at
Vereshchagin were unable to kill him, for the crowd pressed from all
sides, swaying as one mass with them in the center and rendering it
impossible for them either to kill him or let him go.
"Hit him with an ax, eh!... Crushed?... Traitor, he sold
Christ.... Still alive... tenacious... serves him right! Torture
serves a thief right. Use the hatchet!... What- still alive?"
Only when the victim ceased to struggle and his cries changed to a
long-drawn, measured death rattle did the crowd around his
prostrate, bleeding corpse begin rapidly to change places. Each one
came up, glanced at what had been done, and with horror, reproach, and
astonishment pushed back again.
"O Lord! The people are like wild beasts! How could he be alive?"
voices in the crowd could be heard saying. "Quite a young fellow
too... must have been a merchant's son. What men!... and they say he's
not the right one.... How not the right one?... O Lord! And there's
another has been beaten too- they say he's nearly done for.... Oh, the
people... Aren't they afraid of sinning?..." said the same mob now,
looking with pained distress at the dead body with its long, thin,
half-severed neck and its livid face stained with blood and dust.
A painstaking police officer, considering the presence of a corpse
in his excellency's courtyard unseemly, told the dragoons to take it
away. Two dragoons took it by its distorted legs and dragged it
along the ground. The gory, dust-stained, half-shaven head with its
long neck trailed twisting along the ground. The crowd shrank back
At the moment when Vereshchagin fell and the crowd closed in with
savage yells and swayed about him, Rostopchin suddenly turned pale
and, instead of going to the back entrance where his carriage
awaited him, went with hurried steps and bent head, not knowing
where and why, along the passage leading to the rooms on the ground
floor. The count's face was white and he could not control the
feverish twitching of his lower jaw.
"This way, your excellency... Where are you going?... This way,
please..." said a trembling, frightened voice behind him.
Count Rostopchin was unable to reply and, turning obediently, went
in the direction indicated. At the back entrance stood his caleche.
The distant roar of the yelling crowd was audible even there. He
hastily took his seat and told the coachman to drive him to his
country house in Sokolniki.
When they reached the Myasnitski Street and could no longer hear the
shouts of the mob, the count began to repent. He remembered with
dissatisfaction the agitation and fear he had betrayed before his
subordinates. "The mob is terrible- disgusting," he said to himself in
French. "They are like wolves whom nothing but flesh can appease."
"Count! One God is above us both!"- Vereshchagin's words suddenly
recurred to him, and a disagreeable shiver ran down his back. But this
was only a momentary feeling and Count Rostopchin smiled
disdainfully at himself. "I had other duties," thought he. "The people
had to be appeased. Many other victims have perished and are perishing
for the public good"- and he began thinking of his social duties to
his family and to the city entrusted to him, and of himself- not
himself as Theodore Vasilyevich Rostopchin (he fancied that Theodore
Vasilyevich Rostopchin was sacrificing himself for the public good)
but himself as governor, the representative of authority and of the
Tsar. "Had I been simply Theodore Vasilyevich my course of action
would have been quite different, but it was my duty to safeguard my
life and dignity as commander in chief."
Lightly swaying on the flexible springs of his carriage and no
longer hearing the terrible sounds of the crowd, Rostopchin grew
physically calm and, as always happens, as soon as he became
physically tranquil his mind devised reasons why he should be mentally
tranquil too. The thought which tranquillized Rostopchin was not a new
one. Since the world began and men have killed one another no one
has ever committed such a crime against his fellow man without
comforting himself with this same idea. This idea is le bien public,
the hypothetical welfare of other people.
To a man not swayed by passion that welfare is never certain, but he
who commits such a crime always knows just where that welfare lies.
And Rostopchin now knew it.
Not only did his reason not reproach him for what he had done, but
he even found cause for self-satisfaction in having so successfully
contrived to avail himself of a convenient opportunity to punish a
criminal and at the same time pacify the mob.
"Vereshchagin was tried and condemned to death," thought
Rostopchin (though the Senate had only condemned Vereshchagin to
hard labor), "he was a traitor and a spy. I could not let him go
unpunished and so I have killed two birds with one stone: to appease
the mob I gave them a victim and at the same time punished a
Having reached his country house and begun to give orders about
domestic arrangements, the count grew quite tranquil.
Half an hour later he was driving with his fast horses across the
Sokolniki field, no longer thinking of what had occurred but
considering what was to come. He was driving to the Yauza bridge where
he had heard that Kutuzov was. Count Rostopchin was mentally preparing
the angry and stinging reproaches he meant to address to Kutuzov for
his deception. He would make that foxy old courtier feel that the
responsibility for all the calamities that would follow the
abandonment of the city and the ruin of Russia (as Rostopchin regarded
it) would fall upon his doting old head. Planning beforehand what he
would say to Kutuzov, Rostopchin turned angrily in his caleche and
gazed sternly from side to side.
The Sokolniki field was deserted. Only at the end of it, in front of
the almshouse and the lunatic asylum, could be seen some people in
white and others like them walking singly across the field shouting
One of these was running to cross the path of Count Rostopchin's
carriage, and the count himself, his coachman, and his dragoons looked
with vague horror and curiosity at these released lunatics and
especially at the one running toward them.
Swaying from side to side on his long, thin legs in his fluttering
dressing gown, this lunatic was running impetuously, his gaze fixed on
Rostopchin, shouting something in a hoarse voice and making signs to
him to stop. The lunatic's solemn, gloomy face was thin and yellow,
with its beard growing in uneven tufts. His black, agate pupils with
saffron-yellow whites moved restlessly near the lower eyelids.
"Stop! Pull up, I tell you!" he cried in a piercing voice, and again
shouted something breathlessly with emphatic intonations and gestures.
Coming abreast of the caleche he ran beside it.
"Thrice have they slain me, thrice have I risen from the dead.
They stoned me, crucified me... I shall rise... shall rise... shall
rise. They have torn my body. The kingdom of God will be overthrown...
Thrice will I overthrow it and thrice re-establish it!" he cried,
raising his voice higher and higher.
Count Rostopchin suddenly grew pale as he had done when the crowd
closed in on Vereshchagin. He turned away. "Go fas... faster!" he
cried in a trembling voice to his coachman. The caleche flew over
the ground as fast as the horses could draw it, but for a long time
Count Rostopchin still heard the insane despairing screams growing
fainter in the distance, while his eyes saw nothing but the
astonished, frightened, bloodstained face of "the traitor" in the
Recent as that mental picture was, Rostopchin already felt that it
had cut deep into his heart and drawn blood. Even now he felt
clearly that the gory trace of that recollection would not pass with
time, but that the terrible memory would, on the contrary, dwell in
his heart ever more cruelly and painfully to the end of his life. He
seemed still to hear the sound of his own words: "Cut him down! I
"Why did I utter those words? It was by some accident I said
them.... I need not have said them," he thought. "And then nothing
would have happened." He saw the frightened and then infuriated face
of the dragoon who dealt the blow, the look of silent, timid
reproach that boy in the fur-lined coat had turned upon him. "But I
did not do it for my own sake. I was bound to act that way.... The
mob, the traitor... the public welfare," thought he.
Troops were still crowding at the Yauza bridge. It was hot. Kutuzov,
dejected and frowning, sat on a bench by the bridge toying with his
whip in the sand when a caleche dashed up noisily. A man in a
general's uniform with plumes in his hat went up to Kutuzov and said
something in French. It was Count Rostopchin. He told Kutuzov that
he had come because Moscow, the capital, was no more and only the army
"Things would have been different if your Serene Highness had not
told me that you would not abandon Moscow without another battle;
all this would not have happened," he said.
Kutuzov looked at Rostopchin as if, not grasping what was said to
him, he was trying to read something peculiar written at that moment
on the face of the man addressing him. Rostopchin grew confused and
became silent. Kutuzov slightly shook his head and not taking his
penetrating gaze from Rostopchin's face muttered softly:
"No! I shall not give up Moscow without a battle!"
Whether Kutuzov was thinking of something entirely different when he
spoke those words, or uttered them purposely, knowing them to be
meaningless, at any rate Rostopchin made no reply and hastily left
him. And strange to say, the Governor of Moscow, the proud Count
Rostopchin, took up a Cossack whip and went to the bridge where he
began with shouts to drive on the carts that blocked the way.
Toward four o'clock in the afternoon Murat's troops were entering
Moscow. In front rode a detachment of Wurttemberg hussars and behind
them rode the King of Naples himself accompanied by a numerous suite.
About the middle of the Arbat Street, near the Church of the
Miraculous Icon of St. Nicholas, Murat halted to await news from the
advanced detachment as to the condition in which they had found the
citadel, le Kremlin.
Around Murat gathered a group of those who had remained in Moscow.
They all stared in timid bewilderment at the strange, long-haired
commander dressed up in feathers and gold.
"Is that their Tsar himself? He's not bad!" low voices could be
An interpreter rode up to the group.
"Take off your cap... your caps!" These words went from one to
another in the crowd. The interpreter addressed an old porter and
asked if it was far to the Kremlin. The porter, listening in
perplexity to the unfamiliar Polish accent and not realizing that
the interpreter was speaking Russian, did not understand what was
being said to him and slipped behind the others.
Murat approached the interpreter and told him to ask where the
Russian army was. One of the Russians understood what was asked and
several voices at once began answering the interpreter. A French
officer, returning from the advanced detachment, rode up to Murat
and reported that the gates of the citadel had been barricaded and
that there was probably an ambuscade there.
"Good!" said Murat and, turning to one of the gentlemen in his
suite, ordered four light guns to be moved forward to fire at the
The guns emerged at a trot from the column following Murat and
advanced up the Arbat. When they reached the end of the Vozdvizhenka
Street they halted and drew in the Square. Several French officers
superintended the placing of the guns and looked at the Kremlin
through field glasses.
The bells in the Kremlin were ringing for vespers, and this sound
troubled the French. They imagined it to be a call to arms. A few
infantrymen ran to the Kutafyev Gate. Beams and wooden screens had
been put there, and two musket shots rang out from under the gate as
soon as an officer and men began to run toward it. A general who was
standing by the guns shouted some words of command to the officer, and
the latter ran back again with his men.
The sound of three more shots came from the gate.
One shot struck a French soldier's foot, and from behind the screens
came the strange sound of a few voices shouting. Instantly as at a
word of command the expression of cheerful serenity on the faces of
the French general, officers, and men changed to one of determined
concentrated readiness for strife and suffering. To all of them from
the marshal to the least soldier, that place was not the Vozdvizhenka,
Mokhavaya, or Kutafyev Street, nor the Troitsa Gate (places familiar
in Moscow), but a new battlefield which would probably prove
sanguinary. And all made ready for that battle. The cries from the
gates ceased. The guns were advanced, the artillerymen blew the ash
off their linstocks, and an officer gave the word "Fire!" This was
followed by two whistling sounds of canister shot, one after
another. The shot rattled against the stone of the gate and upon the
wooden beams and screens, and two wavering clouds of smoke rose over
A few instants after the echo of the reports resounding over the
stone-built Kremlin had died away the French heard a strange sound
above their head. Thousands of crows rose above the walls and
circled in the air, cawing and noisily flapping their wings.
Together with that sound came a solitary human cry from the gateway
and amid the smoke appeared the figure of a bareheaded man in a
peasant's coat. He grasped a musket and took aim at the French.
"Fire!" repeated the officer once more, and the reports of a musket
and of two cannon shots were heard simultaneously. The gate again
hidden by smoke.
Nothing more stirred behind the screens and the French infantry
soldiers and officers advanced to the gate. In the gateway lay three
wounded and four dead. Two men in peasant coats ran away at the foot
of the wall, toward the Znamenka.
"Clear that away!" said the officer, pointing to the beams and the
corpses, and the French soldiers, after dispatching the wounded, threw
the corpses over the parapet.
Who these men were nobody knew. "Clear that away!" was all that
was said of them, and they were thrown over the parapet and removed
later on that they might not stink. Thiers alone dedicates a few
eloquent lines to their memory: "These wretches had occupied the
sacred citadel, having supplied themselves with guns from the arsenal,
and fired" (the wretches) "at the French. Some of them were sabered
and the Kremlin was purged of their presence."
Murat was informed that the way had been cleared. The French entered
the gates and began pitching their camp in the Senate Square. Out of
the windows of the Senate House the soldiers threw chairs into the
Square for fuel and kindled fires there.
Other detachments passed through the Kremlin and encamped along
the Moroseyka, the Lubyanka, and Pokrovka Streets. Others quartered
themselves along the Vozdvizhenka, the Nikolski, and the Tverskoy
Streets. No masters of the houses being found anywhere, the French
were not billeted on the inhabitants as is usual in towns but lived in
it as in a camp.
Though tattered, hungry, worn out, and reduced to a third of their
original number, the French entered Moscow in good marching order.
It was a weary and famished, but still a fighting and menacing army.
But it remained an army only until its soldiers had dispersed into
their different lodgings. As soon as the men of the various
regiments began to disperse among the wealthy and deserted houses, the
army was lost forever and there came into being something nondescript,
neither citizens nor soldiers but what are known as marauders. When
five weeks later these same men left Moscow, they no longer formed
an army. They were a mob of marauders, each carrying a quantity of
articles which seemed to him valuable or useful. The aim of each man
when he left Moscow was no longer, as it had been, to conquer, but
merely to keep what he had acquired. Like a monkey which puts its
paw into the narrow neck of a jug, and having seized a handful of nuts
will not open its fist for fear of losing what it holds, and therefore
perishes, the French when they left Moscow had inevitably to perish
because they carried their loot with them, yet to abandon what they
had stolen was as impossible for them as it is for the monkey to
open its paw and let go of its nuts. Ten minutes after each regiment
had entered a Moscow district, not a soldier or officer was left.
Men in military uniforms and Hessian boots could be seen through the
windows, laughing and walking through the rooms. In cellars and
storerooms similar men were busy among the provisions, and in the
yards unlocking or breaking open coach house and stable doors,
lighting fires in kitchens and kneading and baking bread with
rolled-up sleeves, and cooking; or frightening, amusing, or
caressing women and children. There were many such men both in the
shops and houses- but there was no army.
Order after order was issued by the French commanders that day
forbidding the men to disperse about the town, sternly forbidding
any violence to the inhabitants or any looting, and announcing a
roll call for that very evening. But despite all these measures the
men, who had till then constituted an army, flowed all over the
wealthy, deserted city with its comforts and plentiful supplies. As
a hungry herd of cattle keeps well together when crossing a barren
field, but gets out of hand and at once disperses uncontrollably as
soon as it reaches rich pastures, so did the army disperse all over
the wealthy city.
No residents were left in Moscow, and the soldiers- like water
percolating through sand- spread irresistibly through the city in
all directions from the Kremlin into which they had first marched. The
cavalry, on entering a merchant's house that had been abandoned and
finding there stabling more than sufficient for their horses, went on,
all the same, to the next house which seemed to them better. Many of
them appropriated several houses, chalked their names on them, and
quarreled and even fought with other companies for them. Before they
had had time to secure quarters the soldiers ran out into the
streets to see the city and, hearing that everything had been
abandoned, rushed to places where valuables were to be had for the
taking. The officers followed to check the soldiers and were
involuntarily drawn into doing the same. In Carriage Row carriages had
been left in the shops, and generals flocked there to select
caleches and coaches for themselves. The few inhabitants who had
remained invited commanding officers to their houses, hoping thereby
to secure themselves from being plundered. There were masses of wealth
and there seemed no end to it. All around the quarters occupied by the
French were other regions still unexplored and unoccupied where,
they thought, yet greater riches might be found. And Moscow engulfed
the army ever deeper and deeper. When water is spilled on dry ground
both the dry ground and the water disappear and mud results; and in
the same way the entry of the famished army into the rich and deserted
city resulted in fires and looting and the destruction of both the
army and the wealthy city.
The French attributed the Fire of Moscow au patriotisme feroce de
Rostopchine,* the Russians to the barbarity of the French. In reality,
however, it was not, and could not be, possible to explain the burning
of Moscow by making any individual, or any group of people,
responsible for it. Moscow was burned because it found itself in a
position in which any town built of wood was bound to burn, quite
apart from whether it had, or had not, a hundred and thirty inferior
fire engines. Deserted Moscow had to burn as inevitably as a heap of
shavings has to burn on which sparks continually fall for several
days. A town built of wood, where scarcely a day passes without
conflagrations when the house owners are in residence and a police
force is present, cannot help burning when its inhabitants have left
it and it is occupied by soldiers who smoke pipes, make campfires of
the Senate chairs in the Senate Square, and cook themselves meals
twice a day. In peacetime it is only necessary to billet troops in the
villages of any district and the number of fires in that district
immediately increases. How much then must the probability of fire be
increased in an abandoned, wooden town where foreign troops are
quartered. "Le patriotisme feroce de Rostopchine" and the barbarity of
the French were not to blame in the matter. Moscow was set on fire
by the soldiers' pipes, kitchens, and campfires, and by the
carelessness of enemy soldiers occupying houses they did not own. Even
if there was any arson (which is very doubtful, for no one had any
reason to burn the houses- in any case a troublesome and dangerous
thing to do), arson cannot be regarded as the cause, for the same
thing would have happened without any incendiarism.
*To Rostopchin's ferocious patriotism.
However tempting it might be for the French to blame Rostopchin's
ferocity and for Russians to blame the scoundrel Bonaparte, or later
on to place an heroic torch in the hands of their own people, it is
impossible not to see that there could be no such direct cause of
the fire, for Moscow had to burn as every village, factory, or house
must burn which is left by its owners and in which strangers are
allowed to live and cook their porridge. Moscow was burned by its
inhabitants, it is true, but by those who had abandoned it and not
by those who remained in it. Moscow when occupied by the enemy did not
remain intact like Berlin, Vienna, and other towns, simply because its
inhabitants abandoned it and did not welcome the French with bread and
salt, nor bring them the keys of the city.
The absorption of the French by Moscow, radiating starwise as it
did, only reached the quarter where Pierre was staying by the
evening of the second of September.
After the last two days spent in solitude and unusual circumstances,
Pierre was in a state bordering on insanity. He was completely
obsessed by one persistent thought. He did not know how or when this
thought had taken such possession of him, but he remembered nothing of
the past, understood nothing of the present, and all he saw and
heard appeared to him like a dream.
He had left home only to escape the intricate tangle of life's
demands that enmeshed him, and which in his present condition he was
unable to unravel. He had gone to Joseph Alexeevich's house, on the
plea of sorting the deceased's books and papers, only in search of
rest from life's turmoil, for in his mind the memory of Joseph
Alexeevich was connected with a world of eternal, solemn, and calm
thoughts, quite contrary to the restless confusion into which he
felt himself being drawn. He sought a quiet refuge, and in Joseph
Alexeevich's study he really found it. When he sat with his elbows
on the dusty writing table in the deathlike stillness of the study,
calm and significant memories of the last few days rose one after
another in his imagination, particularly of the battle of Borodino and
of that vague sense of his own insignificance and insincerity compared
with the truth, simplicity, and strength of the class of men he
mentally classed as they. When Gerasim roused him from his reverie the
idea occurred to him of taking part in the popular defense of Moscow
which he knew was projected. And with that object he had asked Gerasim
to get him a peasant's coat and a pistol, confiding to him his
intentions of remaining in Joseph Alexeevich's house and keeping his
name secret. Then during the first day spent in inaction and
solitude (he tried several times to fix his attention on the Masonic
manuscripts, but was unable to do so) the idea that had previously
occurred to him of the cabalistic significance of his name in
connection with Bonaparte's more than once vaguely presented itself.
But the idea that he, L'russe Besuhof, was destined to set a limit
to the power of the Beast was as yet only one of the fancies that
often passed through his mind and left no trace behind.
When, having bought the coat merely with the object of taking part
among the people in the defense of Moscow, Pierre had met the
Rostovs and Natasha had said to him: "Are you remaining in
Moscow?... How splendid!" the thought flashed into his mind that it
really would be a good thing, even if Moscow were taken, for him to
remain there and do what he was predestined to do.
Next day, with the sole idea of not sparing himself and not
lagging in any way behind them, Pierre went to the Three Hills gate.
But when he returned to the house convinced that Moscow would not be
defended, he suddenly felt that what before had seemed to him merely a
possibility had now become absolutely necessary and inevitable. He
must remain in Moscow, concealing his name, and must meet Napoleon and
kill him, and either perish or put an end to the misery of all Europe-
which it seemed to him was solely due to Napoleon.
Pierre knew all the details of the attempt on Bonaparte's life in
1809 by a German student in Vienna, and knew that the student had been
shot. And the risk to which he would expose his life by carrying out
his design excited him still more.
Two equally strong feelings drew Pierre irresistibly to this
purpose. The first was a feeling of the necessity of sacrifice and
suffering in view of the common calamity, the same feeling that had
caused him to go to Mozhaysk on the twenty-fifth and to make his way
to the very thick of the battle and had now caused him to run away
from his home and, in place of the luxury and comfort to which he
was accustomed, to sleep on a hard sofa without undressing and eat the
same food as Gerasim. The other was that vague and quite Russian
feeling of contempt for everything conventional, artificial, and
human- for everything the majority of men regard as the greatest
good in the world. Pierre had first experienced this strange and
fascinating feeling at the Sloboda Palace, when he had suddenly felt
that wealth, power, and life- all that men so painstakingly acquire
and guard- if it has any worth has so only by reason the joy with
which it can all be renounced.
It was the feeling that induces a volunteer recruit to spend his
last penny on drink, and a drunken man to smash mirrors or glasses for
no apparent reason and knowing that it will cost him all the money
he possesses: the feeling which causes a man to perform actions
which from an ordinary point of view are insane, to test, as it
were, his personal power and strength, affirming the existence of a
higher, nonhuman criterion of life.
From the very day Pierre had experienced this feeling for the
first time at the Sloboda Palace he had been continuously under its
influence, but only now found full satisfaction for it. Moreover, at
this moment Pierre was supported in his design and prevented from
renouncing it by what he had already done in that direction. If he
were now to leave Moscow like everyone else, his flight from home, the
peasant coat, the pistol, and his announcement to the Rostovs that
he would remain in Moscow would all become not merely meaningless
but contemptible and ridiculous, and to this Pierre was very
Pierre's physical condition, as is always the case, corresponded
to his mental state. The unaccustomed coarse food, the vodka he
drank during those days, the absence of wine and cigars, his dirty
unchanged linen, two almost sleepless nights passed on a short sofa
without bedding- all this kept him in a state of excitement
bordering on insanity.
It was two o'clock in the afternoon. The French had already
entered Moscow. Pierre knew this, but instead of acting he only
thought about his undertaking, going over its minutest details in
his mind. In his fancy he did not clearly picture to himself either
the striking of the blow or the death of Napoleon, but with
extraordinary vividness and melancholy enjoyment imagined his own
destruction and heroic endurance.
"Yes, alone, for the sake of all, I must do it or perish!" he
thought. "Yes, I will approach... and then suddenly... with pistol
or dagger? But that is all the same! 'It is not I but the hand of
Providence that punishes thee,' I shall say," thought he, imagining
what he would say when killing Napoleon. "Well then, take me and
execute me!" he went on, speaking to himself and bowing his head
with a sad but firm expression.
While Pierre, standing in the middle of the room, was talking to
himself in this way, the study door opened and on the threshold
appeared the figure of Makar Alexeevich, always so timid before but
now quite transformed.
His dressing gown was unfastened, his face red and distorted. He was
obviously drunk. On seeing Pierre he grew confused at first, but
noticing embarrassment on Pierre's face immediately grew bold and,
staggering on his thin legs, advanced into the middle of the room.
"They're frightened," he said confidentially in a hoarse voice. "I
say I won't surrender, I say... Am I not right, sir?"
He paused and then suddenly seeing the pistol on the table seized it
with unexpected rapidity and ran out into the corridor.
Gerasim and the porter, who had followed Makar Alexeevich, stopped
him in the vestibule and tried to take the pistol from him. Pierre,
coming out into the corridor, looked with pity and repulsion at the
half-crazy old man. Makar Alexeevich, frowning with exertion, held
on to the pistol and screamed hoarsely, evidently with some heroic
fancy in his head.
"To arms! Board them! No, you shan't get it," he yelled.
"That will do, please, that will do. Have the goodness- please, sir,
to let go! Please, sir..." pleaded Gerasim, trying carefully to
steer Makar Alexeevich by the elbows back to the door.
"Who are you? Bonaparte!..." shouted Makar Alexeevich.
"That's not right, sir. Come to your room, please, and rest. Allow
me to have the pistol."
"Be off, thou base slave! Touch me not! See this?" shouted Makar
Alexeevich, brandishing the pistol. "Board them!"
"Catch hold!" whispered Gerasim to the porter.
They seized Makar Alexeevich by the arms and dragged him to the
The vestibule was filled with the discordant sounds of a struggle
and of a tipsy, hoarse voice.
Suddenly a fresh sound, a piercing feminine scream, reverberated
from the porch and the cook came running into the vestibule.
"It's them! Gracious heavens! O Lord, four of them, horsemen!" she
Gerasim and the porter let Makar Alexeevich go, and in the now
silent corridor the sound of several hands knocking at the front
door could be heard.
Pierre, having decided that until he had carried out his design he
would disclose neither his identity nor his knowledge of French, stood
at the half-open door of the corridor, intending to conceal himself as
soon as the French entered. But the French entered and still Pierre
did not retire- an irresistible curiosity kept him there.
There were two of them. One was an officer- a tall, soldierly,
handsome man- the other evidently a private or an orderly,
sunburned, short, and thin, with sunken cheeks and a dull
expression. The officer walked in front, leaning on a stick and
slightly limping. When he had advanced a few steps he stopped,
having apparently decided that these were good quarters, turned
round to the soldiers standing at the entrance, and in a loud voice of
command ordered them to put up the horses. Having done that, the
officer, lifting his elbow with a smart gesture, stroked his
mustache and lightly touched his hat.
"Bonjour, la compagnie!"* said he gaily, smiling and looking about
*"Good day, everybody!"
No one gave any reply.
"Vous etes le bourgeois?"* the officer asked Gerasim.
*"Are you the master here?"
Gerasim gazed at the officer with an alarmed and inquiring look.
"Quartier, quartier, logement!" said the officer, looking down at
the little man with a condescending and good-natured smile. "Les
francais sont de bons enfants. Que diable! Voyons! Ne nous fachons
pas, mon vieux!"* added he, clapping the scared and silent Gerasim
on the shoulder. "Well, does no one speak French in this
establishment?" he asked again in French, looking around and meeting
Pierre's eyes. Pierre moved away from the door.
*"Quarters, quarters, lodgings! The French are good fellows. What
the devil! There, don't let us be cross, old fellow!"
Again the officer turned to Gerasim and asked him to show him the
rooms in the house.
"Master, not here- don't understand... me, you..." said Gerasim,
trying to render his words more comprehensible by contorting them.
Still smiling, the French officer spread out his hands before
Gerasim's nose, intimating that he did not understand him either,
and moved, limping, to the door at which Pierre was standing. Pierre
wished to go away and conceal himself, but at that moment he saw Makar
Alexeevich appearing at the open kitchen door with the pistol in his
hand. With a madman's cunning, Makar Alexeevich eyed the Frenchman,
raised his pistol, and took aim.
"Board them!" yelled the tipsy man, trying to press the trigger.
Hearing the yell the officer turned round, and at the same moment
Pierre threw himself on the drunkard. Just when Pierre snatched at and
struck up the pistol Makar Alexeevich at last got his fingers on the
trigger, there was a deafening report, and all were enveloped in a
cloud of smoke. The Frenchman turned pale and rushed to the door.
Forgetting his intention of concealing his knowledge of French,
Pierre, snatching away the pistol and throwing it down, ran up to
the officer and addressed him in French.
"You are not wounded?" he asked.
"I think not," answered the Frenchman, feeling himself over. "But
I have had a lucky escape this time," he added, pointing to the
damaged plaster of the wall. "Who is that man?" said he, looking
sternly at Pierre.
"Oh, I am really in despair at what has occurred," said Pierre
rapidly, quite forgetting the part he had intended to play. "He is
an unfortunate madman who did not know what he was doing."
The officer went up to Makar Alexeevich and took him by the collar.
Makar Alexeevich was standing with parted lips, swaying, as if about
to fall asleep, as he leaned against the wall.
"Brigand! You shall pay for this," said the Frenchman, letting go of
him. "We French are merciful after victory, but we do not pardon
traitors," he added, with a look of gloomy dignity and a fine
Pierre continued, in French, to persuade the officer not to hold
that drunken imbecile to account. The Frenchman listened in silence
with the same gloomy expression, but suddenly turned to Pierre with
a smile. For a few seconds he looked at him in silence. His handsome
face assumed a melodramatically gentle expression and he held out
"You have saved my life. You are French," said he.
For a Frenchman that deduction was indubitable. Only a Frenchman
could perform a great deed, and to save his life- the life of M.
Ramballe, captain of the 13th Light Regiment- was undoubtedly a very
But however indubitable that conclusion and the officer's conviction
based upon it, Pierre felt it necessary to disillusion him.
"I am Russian," he said quickly.
"Tut, tut, tut! Tell that to others," said the officer, waving his
finger before his nose and smiling. "You shall tell me all about
that presently. I am delighted to meet a compatriot. Well, and what
are we to do with this man?" he added, addressing himself to Pierre as
to a brother.
Even if Pierre were not a Frenchman, having once received that
loftiest of human appellations he could not renounce it, said the
officer's look and tone. In reply to his last question Pierre again
explained who Makar Alexeevich was and how just before their arrival
that drunken imbecile had seized the loaded pistol which they had
not had time to recover from him, and begged the officer to let the
deed go unpunished.
The Frenchman expanded his chest and made a majestic gesture with
"You have saved my life! You are French. You ask his pardon? I grant
it you. Lead that man away!" said he quickly and energetically, and
taking the arm of Pierre whom he had promoted to be a Frenchman for