From the day when Pierre, after leaving the Rostóvs’ with Natásha’s grateful look fresh in his mind, had gazed at the comet that seemed to be fixed in the sky and felt that something new was appearing on his own horizon—from that day the problem of the vanity and uselessness of all earthly things, that had incessantly tormented him, no longer presented itself. That terrible question “Why?” “Wherefore?” which had come to him amid every occupation, was now replaced, not by another question or by a reply to the former question, but by her image. When he listened to, or himself took part in, trivial conversations, when he read or heard of human baseness or folly, he was not horrified as formerly, and did not ask himself why men struggled so about these things when all is so transient and incomprehensible—but he remembered her as he had last seen her, and all his doubts vanished—not because she had answered the questions that had haunted him, but because his conception of her transferred him instantly to another, a brighter, realm of spiritual activity in which no one could be justified or guilty—a realm of beauty and love which it was worth living for. Whatever worldly baseness presented itself to him, he said to himself:
“Well, supposing N. N. has swindled the country and the Tsar, and the country and the Tsar confer honors upon him, what does that matter? She smiled at me yesterday and asked me to come again, and I love her, and no one will ever know it.” And his soul felt calm and peaceful.
Pierre still went into society, drank as much and led the same idle and dissipated life, because besides the hours he spent at the Rostóvs’ there were other hours he had to spend somehow, and the habits and acquaintances he had made in Moscow formed a current that bore him along irresistibly. But latterly, when more and more disquieting reports came from the seat of war and Natásha’s health began to improve and she no longer aroused in him the former feeling of careful pity, an ever-increasing restlessness, which he could not explain, took possession of him. He felt that the condition he was in could not continue long, that a catastrophe was coming which would change his whole life, and he impatiently sought everywhere for signs of that approaching catastrophe. One of his brother Masons had revealed to Pierre the following prophecy concerning Napoleon, drawn from the Revelation of St. John.
In chapter 13, verse 18, of the Apocalypse, it is said:
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
And in the fifth verse of the same chapter:
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
The French alphabet, written out with the same numerical values as the Hebrew, in which the first nine letters denote units and the others tens, will have the following significance:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
l m n o p q r s
20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
t u v w x y
100 110 120 130 140 150
Writing the words L’Empereur Napoléon in numbers, it appears that the sum of them is 666, and that Napoleon was therefore the beast foretold in the Apocalypse. Moreover, by applying the same system to the words quarante-deux, * which was the term allowed to the beast that “spoke great things and blasphemies,” the same number 666 was obtained; from which it followed that the limit fixed for Napoleon’s power had come in the year 1812 when the French emperor was forty-two. This prophecy pleased Pierre very much and he often asked himself what would put an end to the power of the beast, that is, of Napoleon, and tried by the same system of using letters as numbers and adding them up, to find an answer to the question that engrossed him. He wrote the words L’Empereur Alexandre, La nation russe and added up their numbers, but the sums were either more or less than 666. Once when making such calculations he wrote down his own name in French, Comte Pierre Besouhoff, but the sum of the numbers did not come right. Then he changed the spelling, substituting a z for the s and adding de and the article le, still without obtaining the desired result. Then it occurred to him: if the answer to the question were contained in his name, his nationality would also be given in the answer. So he wrote Le russe Besuhof and adding up the numbers got 671. This was only five too much, and five was represented by e, the very letter elided from the article le before the word Empereur. By omitting the e, though incorrectly, Pierre got the answer he sought. L’russe Besuhof made 666. This discovery excited him. How, or by what means, he was connected with the great event foretold in the Apocalypse he did not know, but he did not doubt that connection for a moment. His love for Natásha, Antichrist, Napoleon, the invasion, the comet, 666, L’Empereur Napoléon, and L’russe Besuhof—all this had to mature and culminate, to lift him out of that spellbound, petty sphere of Moscow habits in which he felt himself held captive and lead him to a great achievement and great happiness.
On the eve of the Sunday when the special prayer was read, Pierre had promised the Rostóvs to bring them, from Count Rostopchín whom he knew well, both the appeal to the people and the news from the army. In the morning, when he went to call at Rostopchín’s he met there a courier fresh from the army, an acquaintance of his own, who often danced at Moscow balls.
“Do, please, for heaven’s sake, relieve me of something!” said the courier. “I have a sackful of letters to parents.”
Among these letters was one from Nicholas Rostóv to his father. Pierre took that letter, and Rostopchín also gave him the Emperor’s appeal to Moscow, which had just been printed, the last army orders, and his own most recent bulletin. Glancing through the army orders, Pierre found in one of them, in the lists of killed, wounded, and rewarded, the name of Nicholas Rostóv, awarded a St. George’s Cross of the Fourth Class for courage shown in the Ostróvna affair, and in the same order the name of Prince Andrew Bolkónski, appointed to the command of a regiment of Chasseurs. Though he did not want to remind the Rostóvs of Bolkónski, Pierre could not refrain from making them happy by the news of their son’s having received a decoration, so he sent that printed army order and Nicholas’ letter to the Rostóvs, keeping the appeal, the bulletin, and the other orders to take with him when he went to dinner.
His conversation with Count Rostopchín and the latter’s tone of anxious hurry, the meeting with the courier who talked casually of how badly things were going in the army, the rumors of the discovery of spies in Moscow and of a leaflet in circulation stating that Napoleon promised to be in both the Russian capitals by the autumn, and the talk of the Emperor’s being expected to arrive next day—all aroused with fresh force that feeling of agitation and expectation in Pierre which he had been conscious of ever since the appearance of the comet, and especially since the beginning of the war.
He had long been thinking of entering the army and would have done so had he not been hindered, first, by his membership of the Society of Freemasons to which he was bound by oath and which preached perpetual peace and the abolition of war, and secondly, by the fact that when he saw the great mass of Muscovites who had donned uniform and were talking patriotism, he somehow felt ashamed to take the step. But the chief reason for not carrying out his intention to enter the army lay in the vague idea that he was L’russe Besuhof who had the number of the beast, 666; that his part in the great affair of setting a limit to the power of the beast that spoke great and blasphemous things had been predestined from eternity, and that therefore he ought not to undertake anything, but wait for what was bound to come to pass.
A few intimate friends were dining with the Rostóvs that day, as usual on Sundays.
Pierre came early so as to find them alone.
He had grown so stout this year that he would have been abnormal had he not been so tall, so broad of limb, and so strong that he carried his bulk with evident ease.
He went up the stairs, puffing and muttering something. His coachman did not even ask whether he was to wait. He knew that when his master was at the Rostóvs’ he stayed till midnight. The Rostóvs’ footman rushed eagerly forward to help him off with his cloak and take his hat and stick. Pierre, from club habit, always left both hat and stick in the anteroom.
The first person he saw in the house was Natásha. Even before he saw her, while taking off his cloak, he heard her. She was practicing solfa exercises in the music room. He knew that she had not sung since her illness, and so the sound of her voice surprised and delighted him. He opened the door softly and saw her, in the lilac dress she had worn at church, walking about the room singing. She had her back to him when he opened the door, but when, turning quickly, she saw his broad, surprised face, she blushed and came rapidly up to him.
“I want to try to sing again,” she said, adding as if by way of excuse, “it is, at least, something to do.”
“How glad I am you’ve come! I am so happy today,” she said, with the old animation Pierre had not seen in her for a long time. “You know Nicholas has received a St. George’s Cross? I am so proud of him.”
“Oh yes, I sent that announcement. But I don’t want to interrupt you,” he added, and was about to go to the drawing room.
Natásha stopped him.
“Count, is it wrong of me to sing?” she said blushing, and fixing her eyes inquiringly on him.
“No... Why should it be? On the contrary... But why do you ask me?”
“I don’t know myself,” Natásha answered quickly, “but I should not like to do anything you disapproved of. I believe in you completely. You don’t know how important you are to me, how much you’ve done for me....” She spoke rapidly and did not notice how Pierre flushed at her words. “I saw in that same army order that he, Bolkónski” (she whispered the name hastily), “is in Russia, and in the army again. What do you think?”—she was speaking hurriedly, evidently afraid her strength might fail her—“Will he ever forgive me? Will he not always have a bitter feeling toward me? What do you think? What do you think?”
“I think...” Pierre replied, “that he has nothing to forgive.... If I were in his place...”
By association of ideas, Pierre was at once carried back to the day when, trying to comfort her, he had said that if he were not himself but the best man in the world and free, he would ask on his knees for her hand; and the same feeling of pity, tenderness, and love took possession of him and the same words rose to his lips. But she did not give him time to say them.
“Yes, you... you...” she said, uttering the word you rapturously—“that’s a different thing. I know no one kinder, more generous, or better than you; nobody could be! Had you not been there then, and now too, I don’t know what would have become of me, because...”
Tears suddenly rose in her eyes, she turned away, lifted her music before her eyes, began singing again, and again began walking up and down the room.
Just then Pétya came running in from the drawing room.
Pétya was now a handsome rosy lad of fifteen with full red lips and resembled Natásha. He was preparing to enter the university, but he and his friend Obolénski had lately, in secret, agreed to join the hussars.
Pétya had come rushing out to talk to his namesake about this affair. He had asked Pierre to find out whether he would be accepted in the hussars.
Pierre walked up and down the drawing room, not listening to what Pétya was saying.
Pétya pulled him by the arm to attract his attention.
“Well, what about my plan? Peter Kirílych, for heaven’s sake! You are my only hope,” said Pétya.
“Oh yes, your plan. To join the hussars? I’ll mention it, I’ll bring it all up today.”
“Well, mon cher, have you got the manifesto?” asked the old count. “The countess has been to Mass at the Razumóvskis’ and heard the new prayer. She says it’s very fine.”
“Yes, I’ve got it,” said Pierre. “The Emperor is to be here tomorrow... there’s to be an Extraordinary Meeting of the nobility, and they are talking of a levy of ten men per thousand. Oh yes, let me congratulate you!”
“Yes, yes, thank God! Well, and what news from the army?”
“We are again retreating. They say we’re already near Smolénsk,” replied Pierre.
“O Lord, O Lord!” exclaimed the count. “Where is the manifesto?”
“The Emperor’s appeal? Oh yes!”
Pierre began feeling in his pockets for the papers, but could not find them. Still slapping his pockets, he kissed the hand of the countess who entered the room and glanced uneasily around, evidently expecting Natásha, who had left off singing but had not yet come into the drawing room.
“On my word, I don’t know what I’ve done with it,” he said.
“There he is, always losing everything!” remarked the countess.
Natásha entered with a softened and agitated expression of face and sat down looking silently at Pierre. As soon as she entered, Pierre’s features, which had been gloomy, suddenly lighted up, and while still searching for the papers he glanced at her several times.
“No, really! I’ll drive home, I must have left them there. I’ll certainly...”
“But you’ll be late for dinner.”
“Oh! And my coachman has gone.”
But Sónya, who had gone to look for the papers in the anteroom, had found them in Pierre’s hat, where he had carefully tucked them under the lining. Pierre was about to begin reading.
“No, after dinner,” said the old count, evidently expecting much enjoyment from that reading.
At dinner, at which champagne was drunk to the health of the new chevalier of St. George, Shinshín told them the town news, of the illness of the old Georgian princess, of Métivier’s disappearance from Moscow, and of how some German fellow had been brought to Rostopchín and accused of being a French “spyer” (so Count Rostopchín had told the story), and how Rostopchín let him go and assured the people that he was “not a spire at all, but only an old German ruin.”
“People are being arrested...” said the count. “I’ve told the countess she should not speak French so much. It’s not the time for it now.”
“And have you heard?” Shinshín asked. “Prince Golítsyn has engaged a master to teach him Russian. It is becoming dangerous to speak French in the streets.”
“And how about you, Count Peter Kirílych? If they call up the militia, you too will have to mount a horse,” remarked the old count, addressing Pierre.
Pierre had been silent and preoccupied all through dinner, seeming not to grasp what was said. He looked at the count.
“Oh yes, the war,” he said. “No! What sort of warrior should I make? And yet everything is so strange, so strange! I can’t make it out. I don’t know, I am very far from having military tastes, but in these times no one can answer for himself.”
After dinner the count settled himself comfortably in an easy chair and with a serious face asked Sónya, who was considered an excellent reader, to read the appeal.
“To Moscow, our ancient Capital!
“The enemy has entered the borders of Russia with immense forces. He comes to despoil our beloved country.”
Sónya read painstakingly in her high-pitched voice. The count listened with closed eyes, heaving abrupt sighs at certain passages.
Natásha sat erect, gazing with a searching look now at her father and now at Pierre.
Pierre felt her eyes on him and tried not to look round. The countess shook her head disapprovingly and angrily at every solemn expression in the manifesto. In all these words she saw only that the danger threatening her son would not soon be over. Shinshín, with a sarcastic smile on his lips, was evidently preparing to make fun of anything that gave him the opportunity: Sónya’s reading, any remark of the count’s, or even the manifesto itself should no better pretext present itself.
After reading about the dangers that threatened Russia, the hopes the Emperor placed on Moscow and especially on its illustrious nobility, Sónya, with a quiver in her voice due chiefly to the attention that was being paid to her, read the last words:
“We ourselves will not delay to appear among our people in that Capital and in other parts of our realm for consultation, and for the direction of all our levies, both those now barring the enemy’s path and those freshly formed to defeat him wherever he may appear. May the ruin he hopes to bring upon us recoil on his own head, and may Europe delivered from bondage glorify the name of Russia!”
“Yes, that’s it!” cried the count, opening his moist eyes and sniffing repeatedly, as if a strong vinaigrette had been held to his nose; and he added, “Let the Emperor but say the word and we’ll sacrifice everything and begrudge nothing.”
Before Shinshín had time to utter the joke he was ready to make on the count’s patriotism, Natásha jumped up from her place and ran to her father.
“What a darling our Papa is!” she cried, kissing him, and she again looked at Pierre with the unconscious coquetry that had returned to her with her better spirits.
“There! Here’s a patriot for you!” said Shinshín.
“Not a patriot at all, but simply...” Natásha replied in an injured tone. “Everything seems funny to you, but this isn’t at all a joke....”
“A joke indeed!” put in the count. “Let him but say the word and we’ll all go.... We’re not Germans!”
“But did you notice, it says, ‘for consultation’?” said Pierre.
“Never mind what it’s for....”
At this moment, Pétya, to whom nobody was paying any attention, came up to his father with a very flushed face and said in his breaking voice that was now deep and now shrill:
“Well, Papa, I tell you definitely, and Mamma too, it’s as you please, but I say definitely that you must let me enter the army, because I can’t... that’s all....”
The countess, in dismay, looked up to heaven, clasped her hands, and turned angrily to her husband.
“That comes of your talking!” said she.
But the count had already recovered from his excitement.
“Come, come!” said he. “Here’s a fine warrior! No! Nonsense! You must study.”
“It’s not nonsense, Papa. Fédya Obolénski is younger than I, and he’s going too. Besides, all the same I can’t study now when...” Pétya stopped short, flushed till he perspired, but still got out the words, “when our Fatherland is in danger.”
“That’ll do, that’ll do—nonsense....”
“But you said yourself that we would sacrifice everything.”
“Pétya! Be quiet, I tell you!” cried the count, with a glance at his wife, who had turned pale and was staring fixedly at her son.
“And I tell you—Peter Kirílych here will also tell you...”
“Nonsense, I tell you. Your mother’s milk has hardly dried on your lips and you want to go into the army! There, there, I tell you,” and the count moved to go out of the room, taking the papers, probably to reread them in his study before having a nap.
“Well, Peter Kirílych, let’s go and have a smoke,” he said.
Pierre was agitated and undecided. Natásha’s unwontedly brilliant eyes, continually glancing at him with a more than cordial look, had reduced him to this condition.
“No, I think I’ll go home.”
“Home? Why, you meant to spend the evening with us.... You don’t often come nowadays as it is, and this girl of mine,” said the count good-naturedly, pointing to Natásha, “only brightens up when you’re here.”
“Yes, I had forgotten... I really must go home... business...” said Pierre hurriedly.
“Well, then, au revoir!” said the count, and went out of the room.
“Why are you going? Why are you upset?” asked Natásha, and she looked challengingly into Pierre’s eyes.
“Because I love you!” was what he wanted to say, but he did not say it, and only blushed till the tears came, and lowered his eyes.
“Because it is better for me to come less often... because... No, simply I have business....”
“Why? No, tell me!” Natásha began resolutely and suddenly stopped.
They looked at each other with dismayed and embarrassed faces. He tried to smile but could not: his smile expressed suffering, and he silently kissed her hand and went out.
Pierre made up his mind not to go to the Rostóvs’ any more.
After the definite refusal he had received, Pétya went to his room and there locked himself in and wept bitterly. When he came in to tea, silent, morose, and with tear-stained face, everybody pretended not to notice anything.
Next day the Emperor arrived in Moscow, and several of the Rostóvs’ domestic serfs begged permission to go to have a look at him. That morning Pétya was a long time dressing and arranging his hair and collar to look like a grown-up man. He frowned before his looking glass, gesticulated, shrugged his shoulders, and finally, without saying a word to anyone, took his cap and left the house by the back door, trying to avoid notice. Pétya decided to go straight to where the Emperor was and to explain frankly to some gentleman-in-waiting (he imagined the Emperor to be always surrounded by gentlemen-in-waiting) that he, Count Rostóv, in spite of his youth wished to serve his country; that youth could be no hindrance to loyalty, and that he was ready to... While dressing, Pétya had prepared many fine things he meant to say to the gentleman-in-waiting.
It was on the very fact of being so young that Pétya counted for success in reaching the Emperor—he even thought how surprised everyone would be at his youthfulness—and yet in the arrangement of his collar and hair and by his sedate deliberate walk he wished to appear a grown-up man. But the farther he went and the more his attention was diverted by the ever-increasing crowds moving toward the Krémlin, the less he remembered to walk with the sedateness and deliberation of a man. As he approached the Krémlin he even began to avoid being crushed and resolutely stuck out his elbows in a menacing way. But within the Trinity Gateway he was so pressed to the wall by people who probably were unaware of the patriotic intentions with which he had come that in spite of all his determination he had to give in, and stop while carriages passed in, rumbling beneath the archway. Beside Pétya stood a peasant woman, a footman, two tradesmen, and a discharged soldier. After standing some time in the gateway, Pétya tried to move forward in front of the others without waiting for all the carriages to pass, and he began resolutely working his way with his elbows, but the woman just in front of him, who was the first against whom he directed his efforts, angrily shouted at him:
“What are you shoving for, young lordling? Don’t you see we’re all standing still? Then why push?”
“Anybody can shove,” said the footman, and also began working his elbows to such effect that he pushed Pétya into a very filthy corner of the gateway.
Pétya wiped his perspiring face with his hands and pulled up the damp collar which he had arranged so well at home to seem like a man’s.
He felt that he no longer looked presentable, and feared that if he were now to approach the gentlemen-in-waiting in that plight he would not be admitted to the Emperor. But it was impossible to smarten oneself up or move to another place, because of the crowd. One of the generals who drove past was an acquaintance of the Rostóvs’, and Pétya thought of asking his help, but came to the conclusion that that would not be a manly thing to do. When the carriages had all passed in, the crowd, carrying Pétya with it, streamed forward into the Krémlin Square which was already full of people. There were people not only in the square, but everywhere—on the slopes and on the roofs. As soon as Pétya found himself in the square he clearly heard the sound of bells and the joyous voices of the crowd that filled the whole Krémlin.
For a while the crowd was less dense, but suddenly all heads were bared, and everyone rushed forward in one direction. Pétya was being pressed so that he could scarcely breathe, and everybody shouted, “Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” Pétya stood on tiptoe and pushed and pinched, but could see nothing except the people about him.
All the faces bore the same expression of excitement and enthusiasm. A tradesman’s wife standing beside Pétya sobbed, and the tears ran down her cheeks.
“Father! Angel! Dear one!” she kept repeating, wiping away her tears with her fingers.
“Hurrah!” was heard on all sides.
For a moment the crowd stood still, but then it made another rush forward.
Quite beside himself, Pétya, clinching his teeth and rolling his eyes ferociously, pushed forward, elbowing his way and shouting “hurrah!” as if he were prepared that instant to kill himself and everyone else, but on both sides of him other people with similarly ferocious faces pushed forward and everybody shouted “hurrah!”
“So this is what the Emperor is!” thought Pétya. “No, I can’t petition him myself—that would be too bold.” But in spite of this he continued to struggle desperately forward, and from between the backs of those in front he caught glimpses of an open space with a strip of red cloth spread out on it; but just then the crowd swayed back—the police in front were pushing back those who had pressed too close to the procession: the Emperor was passing from the palace to the Cathedral of the Assumption—and Pétya unexpectedly received such a blow on his side and ribs and was squeezed so hard that suddenly everything grew dim before his eyes and he lost consciousness. When he came to himself, a man of clerical appearance with a tuft of gray hair at the back of his head and wearing a shabby blue cassock—probably a church clerk and chanter—was holding him under the arm with one hand while warding off the pressure of the crowd with the other.
“You’ve crushed the young gentleman!” said the clerk. “What are you up to? Gently!... They’ve crushed him, crushed him!”
The Emperor entered the Cathedral of the Assumption. The crowd spread out again more evenly, and the clerk led Pétya—pale and breathless—to the Tsar-cannon. Several people were sorry for Pétya, and suddenly a crowd turned toward him and pressed round him. Those who stood nearest him attended to him, unbuttoned his coat, seated him on the raised platform of the cannon, and reproached those others (whoever they might be) who had crushed him.
“One might easily get killed that way! What do they mean by it? Killing people! Poor dear, he’s as white as a sheet!”—various voices were heard saying.
Pétya soon came to himself, the color returned to his face, the pain had passed, and at the cost of that temporary unpleasantness he had obtained a place by the cannon from where he hoped to see the Emperor who would be returning that way. Pétya no longer thought of presenting his petition. If he could only see the Emperor he would be happy!
While the service was proceeding in the Cathedral of the Assumption—it was a combined service of prayer on the occasion of the Emperor’s arrival and of thanksgiving for the conclusion of peace with the Turks—the crowd outside spread out and hawkers appeared, selling kvas, gingerbread, and poppyseed sweets (of which Pétya was particularly fond), and ordinary conversation could again be heard. A tradesman’s wife was showing a rent in her shawl and telling how much the shawl had cost; another was saying that all silk goods had now got dear. The clerk who had rescued Pétya was talking to a functionary about the priests who were officiating that day with the bishop. The clerk several times used the word “plenary” (of the service), a word Pétya did not understand. Two young citizens were joking with some serf girls who were cracking nuts. All these conversations, especially the joking with the girls, were such as might have had a particular charm for Pétya at his age, but they did not interest him now. He sat on his elevation—the pedestal of the cannon—still agitated as before by the thought of the Emperor and by his love for him. The feeling of pain and fear he had experienced when he was being crushed, together with that of rapture, still further intensified his sense of the importance of the occasion.
Suddenly the sound of a firing of cannon was heard from the embankment, to celebrate the signing of peace with the Turks, and the crowd rushed impetuously toward the embankment to watch the firing. Pétya too would have run there, but the clerk who had taken the young gentleman under his protection stopped him. The firing was still proceeding when officers, generals, and gentlemen-in-waiting came running out of the cathedral, and after them others in a more leisurely manner: caps were again raised, and those who had run to look at the cannon ran back again. At last four men in uniforms and sashes emerged from the cathedral doors. “Hurrah! hurrah!” shouted the crowd again.
“Which is he? Which?” asked Pétya in a tearful voice, of those around him, but no one answered him, everybody was too excited; and Pétya, fixing on one of those four men, whom he could not clearly see for the tears of joy that filled his eyes, concentrated all his enthusiasm on him—though it happened not to be the Emperor—frantically shouted “Hurrah!” and resolved that tomorrow, come what might, he would join the army.
The crowd ran after the Emperor, followed him to the palace, and began to disperse. It was already late, and Pétya had not eaten anything and was drenched with perspiration, yet he did not go home but stood with that diminishing, but still considerable, crowd before the palace while the Emperor dined—looking in at the palace windows, expecting he knew not what, and envying alike the notables he saw arriving at the entrance to dine with the Emperor and the court footmen who served at table, glimpses of whom could be seen through the windows.
While the Emperor was dining, Valúev, looking out of the window, said:
“The people are still hoping to see Your Majesty again.”
The dinner was nearly over, and the Emperor, munching a biscuit, rose and went out onto the balcony. The people, with Pétya among them, rushed toward the balcony.
“Angel! Dear one! Hurrah! Father!...” cried the crowd, and Pétya with it, and again the women and men of weaker mold, Pétya among them, wept with joy.
A largish piece of the biscuit the Emperor was holding in his hand broke off, fell on the balcony parapet, and then to the ground. A coachman in a jerkin, who stood nearest, sprang forward and snatched it up. Several people in the crowd rushed at the coachman. Seeing this the Emperor had a plateful of biscuits brought him and began throwing them down from the balcony. Pétya’s eyes grew bloodshot, and still more excited by the danger of being crushed, he rushed at the biscuits. He did not know why, but he had to have a biscuit from the Tsar’s hand and he felt that he must not give way. He sprang forward and upset an old woman who was catching at a biscuit; the old woman did not consider herself defeated though she was lying on the ground—she grabbed at some biscuits but her hand did not reach them. Pétya pushed her hand away with his knee, seized a biscuit, and as if fearing to be too late, again shouted “Hurrah!” with a voice already hoarse.
The Emperor went in, and after that the greater part of the crowd began to disperse.
“There! I said if only we waited—and so it was!” was being joyfully said by various people.
Happy as Pétya was, he felt sad at having to go home knowing that all the enjoyment of that day was over. He did not go straight home from the Krémlin, but called on his friend Obolénski, who was fifteen and was also entering the regiment. On returning home Pétya announced resolutely and firmly that if he was not allowed to enter the service he would run away. And next day, Count Ilyá Rostóv—though he had not yet quite yielded—went to inquire how he could arrange for Pétya to serve where there would be least danger.
Two days later, on the fifteenth of July, an immense number of carriages were standing outside the Slobóda Palace.
The great halls were full. In the first were the nobility and gentry in their uniforms, in the second bearded merchants in full-skirted coats of blue cloth and wearing medals. In the noblemen’s hall there was an incessant movement and buzz of voices. The chief magnates sat on high-backed chairs at a large table under the portrait of the Emperor, but most of the gentry were strolling about the room.
All these nobles, whom Pierre met every day at the Club or in their own houses, were in uniform—some in that of Catherine’s day, others in that of Emperor Paul, others again in the new uniforms of Alexander’s time or the ordinary uniform of the nobility, and the general characteristic of being in uniform imparted something strange and fantastic to these diverse and familiar personalities, both old and young. The old men, dim-eyed, toothless, bald, sallow, and bloated, or gaunt and wrinkled, were especially striking. For the most part they sat quietly in their places and were silent, or, if they walked about and talked, attached themselves to someone younger. On all these faces, as on the faces of the crowd Pétya had seen in the Square, there was a striking contradiction: the general expectation of a solemn event, and at the same time the everyday interests in a boston card party, Peter the cook, Zinaída Dmítrievna’s health, and so on.
Pierre was there too, buttoned up since early morning in a nobleman’s uniform that had become too tight for him. He was agitated; this extraordinary gathering not only of nobles but also of the merchant-class—les états généraux (States-General)—evoked in him a whole series of ideas he had long laid aside but which were deeply graven in his soul: thoughts of the Contrat Social and the French Revolution. The words that had struck him in the Emperor’s appeal—that the sovereign was coming to the capital for consultation with his people—strengthened this idea. And imagining that in this direction something important which he had long awaited was drawing near, he strolled about watching and listening to conversations, but nowhere finding any confirmation of the ideas that occupied him.
The Emperor’s manifesto was read, evoking enthusiasm, and then all moved about discussing it. Besides the ordinary topics of conversation, Pierre heard questions of where the marshals of the nobility were to stand when the Emperor entered, when a ball should be given in the Emperor’s honor, whether they should group themselves by districts or by whole provinces... and so on; but as soon as the war was touched on, or what the nobility had been convened for, the talk became undecided and indefinite. Then all preferred listening to speaking.
A middle-aged man, handsome and virile, in the uniform of a retired naval officer, was speaking in one of the rooms, and a small crowd was pressing round him. Pierre went up to the circle that had formed round the speaker and listened. Count Ilyá Rostóv, in a military uniform of Catherine’s time, was sauntering with a pleasant smile among the crowd, with all of whom he was acquainted. He too approached that group and listened with a kindly smile and nods of approval, as he always did, to what the speaker was saying. The retired naval man was speaking very boldly, as was evident from the expression on the faces of the listeners and from the fact that some people Pierre knew as the meekest and quietest of men walked away disapprovingly or expressed disagreement with him. Pierre pushed his way into the middle of the group, listened, and convinced himself that the man was indeed a liberal, but of views quite different from his own. The naval officer spoke in a particularly sonorous, musical, and aristocratic baritone voice, pleasantly swallowing his r’s and generally slurring his consonants: the voice of a man calling out to his servant, “Heah! Bwing me my pipe!” It was indicative of dissipation and the exercise of authority.
“What if the Smolénsk people have offahd to waise militia for the Empewah? Ah we to take Smolénsk as our patte’n? If the noble awistocwacy of the pwovince of Moscow thinks fit, it can show its loyalty to our sov’weign the Empewah in other ways. Have we fo’gotten the waising of the militia in the yeah ‘seven? All that did was to enwich the pwiests’ sons and thieves and wobbahs....”
Count Ilyá Rostóv smiled blandly and nodded approval.
“And was our militia of any use to the Empia? Not at all! It only wuined our farming! Bettah have another conscwiption... o’ ou’ men will wetu’n neithah soldiers no’ peasants, and we’ll get only depwavity fwom them. The nobility don’t gwudge theah lives—evewy one of us will go and bwing in more wecwuits, and the sov’weign” (that was the way he referred to the Emperor) “need only say the word and we’ll all die fo’ him!” added the orator with animation.
Count Rostóv’s mouth watered with pleasure and he nudged Pierre, but Pierre wanted to speak himself. He pushed forward, feeling stirred, but not yet sure what stirred him or what he would say. Scarcely had he opened his mouth when one of the senators, a man without a tooth in his head, with a shrewd though angry expression, standing near the first speaker, interrupted him. Evidently accustomed to managing debates and to maintaining an argument, he began in low but distinct tones:
“I imagine, sir,” said he, mumbling with his toothless mouth, “that we have been summoned here not to discuss whether it’s best for the empire at the present moment to adopt conscription or to call out the militia. We have been summoned to reply to the appeal with which our sovereign the Emperor has honored us. But to judge what is best—conscription or the militia—we can leave to the supreme authority....”
Pierre suddenly saw an outlet for his excitement. He hardened his heart against the senator who was introducing this set and narrow attitude into the deliberations of the nobility. Pierre stepped forward and interrupted him. He himself did not yet know what he would say, but he began to speak eagerly, occasionally lapsing into French or expressing himself in bookish Russian.
“Excuse me, your excellency,” he began. (He was well acquainted with the senator, but thought it necessary on this occasion to address him formally.) “Though I don’t agree with the gentleman...” (he hesitated: he wished to say, “Mon très honorable préopinant”—“My very honorable opponent”) “with the gentleman... whom I have not the honor of knowing, I suppose that the nobility have been summoned not merely to express their sympathy and enthusiasm but also to consider the means by which we can assist our Fatherland! I imagine,” he went on, warming to his subject, “that the Emperor himself would not be satisfied to find in us merely owners of serfs whom we are willing to devote to his service, and chair à canon * we are ready to make of ourselves—and not to obtain from us any co-co-counsel.”