Book 11 Chapter 10

ON THE 30TH Pierre returned to Moscow. Almost at the city gates he was met by an adjutant of Count Rastoptchin's.

“Why, we have been looking for you everywhere,” said the adjutant. “The count urgently wants to see you. He begs you to come to him at once on very important business.” Instead of going home, Pierre hailed a cab-driver and drove to the governor's.

Count Rastoptchin had only that morning arrived from his summer villa at Sokolniky. The ante-room and waiting-room in the count's house were full of officials, who had been summoned by him, or had come to him for instructions. Vassiltchekov and Platov had already seen the count, and informed him that the defence of Moscow was out of the question, and the city would be surrendered. Though the news was being concealed from the citizens, the heads of various departments and officials of different kinds knew that Moscow would soon be in the hands of the enemy, just as Count Rastoptchin knew it. And all of them to escape personal responsibility had come to the governor to inquire how to act in regard to the offices in their charge.

At the moment when Pierre went into the waiting-room, a courier from the army was just coming out from an interview with the count.

The courier waved his hand with a hopeless air at the questions with which he was besieged, and walked across the room.

While he waited, Pierre watched with weary eyes the various officials—young, old, military, and civilian, important and insignificant— who were gathered together in the room. All seemed dissatisfied and uneasy. Pierre went up to one group of functionaries, among whom he recognised an acquaintance. After greeting him, they went on with their conversation.

“Well, to send out and bring back again would be no harm; but in the present position of affairs there's no answering for anything.”

“But look here, what he writes,” said another, pointing to a printed paper he held in his hand.

“That's a different matter. That's necessary for the common people,” said the first.

“What is it?” asked Pierre.

“The new proclamation.”

Pierre took it and began to read.

“His highness the prince has passed Mozhaisk, so as to unite with the troops that are going to join him, and has taken up a strong position, where the enemy cannot attack him suddenly. Forty-eight cannon with shells have been sent him from here, and his highness declares that he will defend Moscow to the last drop of blood, and is ready even to fight in the streets. Don't mind, brothers, that the courts of justice are closed; we must take our measures, and we'll deal with miscreants in our own fashion. When the time comes, I shall have need of some gallant fellows, both of town and country. I will give the word in a couple of days; but now there's no need, and I hold my peace. The axe is useful; the pike, too, is not to be despised; but best of all is the three-pronged fork: a Frenchman is no heavier than a sheaf of rye. To-morrow after dinner, I shall take the Iversky Holy Mother to St. Catherine's Hospital to the wounded. There we will consecrate the water; they will soon be well again. I, too am well now; one of my eyes was bad, but now I look well out of both.”

“Why, I was told by military men,” said Pierre, “that there could be no fighting in the town itself, and the position…”

“To be sure, that's just what we are saying,” said the first speaker.

“But what does that mean: ‘One of my eyes was bad, but now I look out of both'?” asked Pierre.

“The count had a sty in his eye,” said the adjutant smiling; “and he was very much put out when I told him people were coming to ask what was the matter. And oh, count,” he said suddenly, addressing Pierre with a smile, “we have been hearing that you are in trouble with domestic anxieties, that the countess, your spouse…”

“I have heard nothing about it,” said Pierre indifferently. “What is it you have heard?”

“Oh, you know, stories are so often made up. I only repeat what I hear.”

“What have you heard?”

“Oh, they say,” said the adjutant again with the same smile, “that the countess, your wife, is preparing to go abroad. It's most likely nonsense.”

“It may be,” said Pierre, looking absent-mindedly about him. “Who is that?” he asked, indicating a tall old man in a clean blue overcoat, with a big, snow-white beard and eyebrows and a ruddy face.

“That? Oh, he's a merchant; that is, he's the restaurant-keeper, Vereshtchagin. You have heard the story of the proclamation, I dare say?”

“Oh, so that's Vereshtchagin!” said Pierre, scrutinising the firm, calm face of the old merchant, and seeking in it some token of treachery.

“That's not the man himself. That's the father of the fellow who wrote the proclamation,” said the adjutant. “The young man himself is in custody, and I fancy it will go hard with him.”

A little old gentleman with a star, and a German official with a cross on his neck, joined the group.

“It's a complicated story, you see,” the adjutant was relating. “The proclamation appeared two months ago. It was brought to the count. He ordered inquiry to be made. Well, Gavrilo Ivanitch made investigations; the proclamation had passed through some sixty-three hands. We come to one and ask, From whom did you get it? From so and so. And the next refers us on to so and so; and in that way they traced it to Vereshtchagin … a half-educated merchant's son, one of those pretty dears, you know,” said the adjutant smiling. “He too was asked, From whom did you get it? And we knew very well from whom he had it really. He could have had it from no one but the director of the post-office. But it was clear there was an understanding between them. He says he got it from no one, but had composed it himself. And threaten him and question him as they would, he stuck to it, he had written it himself. So the matter was reported, and the count had him sent for. ‘From whom did you get the proclamation?' ‘I wrote it myself.' Well! you know the count,” said the adjutant, with a smile of pride and delight. “He was fearfully angry; and only fancy the insolence, and lying, and stubbornness!”

“Oh! the count wanted him to say it was from Klutcharyov, I understand,” said Pierre.

“Oh no, not at all,” said the adjutant in dismay. “Klutcharyov had sins enough to answer for without that, and that's why he was banished. But any way, the count was very indignant. ‘How could you write it?' says the count. He took up the Hamburg Gazette that was on the table. ‘Here it is. You did not compose it, but translated it, and very badly too, because you don't even know French, you fool.' What do you think? ‘No,' says he, ‘I have never read any gazettes; I made it up.' ‘But if so, you're a traitor, and I'll hand you over for judgment, and you will be hanged.' ‘Tell us from whom you got it.' ‘I have not seen any gazettes; I composed it.' So the matter rests. The count sent for the father; he sticks to the same story. And they had him tried, and he was sentenced, I believe, to hard labour. Now the father has come to petition in his favour. But he is a worthless young scamp! You know the style of spoilt merchant's son, a regular dandy and lady-killer; has attended lectures of some sort, and so fancies that he's above everybody. A regular young scamp! His father has an eating-house here on the Kamenny bridge; and in the shop, you know, there is a great picture of God the Supporter of All, represented with a sceptre in one hand and the empire in the other; well, he took that picture home for a few days, and what do you suppose he did! He got hold of some wretched painter…”