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 his knock.
“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,” said Pierre.
“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 house.
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 eat?”
“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 still held.
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 boyars.
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 truth.
“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- le ridicule…
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 event!”
He did not drive into the town, but put up at an inn in the Dorogomilov suburb.
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 arms.
“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 can’t fight.'”
“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 servants’ quarters.
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 arm.
“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 thief?”
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 cap.
“Come along then! Come along then!” the publican and the tall young fellow repeated one after the other, and they moved up the street together.
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 tattered coats.
“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 moving crowd.
“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 minds.
“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 us.”
“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 stop.
“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 might happen.
“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 French.”
“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…”
“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 must do.
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 window.
“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 Rostopchin angrily.
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 recollection.
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 someone.
“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 behind them.
“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 his face.
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 from it.
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 miscreant.”
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 and gesticulating.
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 fur-lined coat.
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 command it….”
“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 remained.
“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 heard saying.
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 gates.
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 the Square.
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 sensitive.
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 door.
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 cried.
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 him.
*”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 energetic gesture.
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 his hand.
“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 great deed.
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 his arm.
“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