Before two o’clock in the afternoon the Rostóvs’ four carriages, packed full and with the horses harnessed, stood at the front door. One by one the carts with the wounded had moved out of the yard.
The calèche in which Prince Andrew was being taken attracted Sónya’s attention as it passed the front porch. With the help of a maid she was arranging a seat for the countess in the huge high coach that stood at the entrance.
“Whose calèche is that?” she inquired, leaning out of the carriage window.
“Why, didn’t you know, Miss?” replied the maid. “The wounded prince: he spent the night in our house and is going with us.”
“But who is it? What’s his name?”
“It’s our intended that was—Prince Bolkónski himself! They say he is dying,” replied the maid with a sigh.
Sónya jumped out of the coach and ran to the countess. The countess, tired out and already dressed in shawl and bonnet for her journey, was pacing up and down the drawing room, waiting for the household to assemble for the usual silent prayer with closed doors before starting. Natásha was not in the room.
“Mamma,” said Sónya, “Prince Andrew is here, mortally wounded. He is going with us.”
The countess opened her eyes in dismay and, seizing Sónya’s arm, glanced around.
“Natásha?” she murmured.
At that moment this news had only one significance for both of them. They knew their Natásha, and alarm as to what would happen if she heard this news stifled all sympathy for the man they both liked.
“Natásha does not know yet, but he is going with us,” said Sónya.
“You say he is dying?”
The countess put her arms around Sónya and began to cry.
“The ways of God are past finding out!” she thought, feeling that the Almighty Hand, hitherto unseen, was becoming manifest in all that was now taking place.
“Well, Mamma? Everything is ready. What’s the matter?” asked Natásha, as with animated face she ran into the room.
“Nothing,” answered the countess. “If everything is ready let us start.”
And the countess bent over her reticule to hide her agitated face. Sónya embraced Natásha and kissed her.
Natásha looked at her inquiringly.
“What is it? What has happened?”
“Is it something very bad for me? What is it?” persisted Natásha with her quick intuition.
Sónya sighed and made no reply. The count, Pétya, Madame Schoss, Mávra Kuzmínichna, and Vasílich came into the drawing room and, having closed the doors, they all sat down and remained for some moments silently seated without looking at one another.
The count was the first to rise, and with a loud sigh crossed himself before the icon. All the others did the same. Then the count embraced Mávra Kuzmínichna and Vasílich, who were to remain in Moscow, and while they caught at his hand and kissed his shoulder he patted their backs lightly with some vaguely affectionate and comforting words. The countess went into the oratory and there Sónya found her on her knees before the icons that had been left here and there hanging on the wall. (The most precious ones, with which some family tradition was connected, were being taken with them.)
In the porch and in the yard the men whom Pétya had armed with swords and daggers, with trousers tucked inside their high boots and with belts and girdles tightened, were taking leave of those remaining behind.
As is always the case at a departure, much had been forgotten or put in the wrong place, and for a long time two menservants stood one on each side of the open door and the carriage steps waiting to help the countess in, while maids rushed with cushions and bundles from the house to the carriages, the calèche, the phaeton, and back again.
“They always will forget everything!” said the countess. “Don’t you know I can’t sit like that?”
And Dunyásha, with clenched teeth, without replying but with an aggrieved look on her face, hastily got into the coach to rearrange the seat.
“Oh, those servants!” said the count, swaying his head.
Efím, the old coachman, who was the only one the countess trusted to drive her, sat perched up high on the box and did not so much as glance round at what was going on behind him. From thirty years’ experience he knew it would be some time yet before the order, “Be off, in God’s name!” would be given him: and he knew that even when it was said he would be stopped once or twice more while they sent back to fetch something that had been forgotten, and even after that he would again be stopped and the countess herself would lean out of the window and beg him for the love of heaven to drive carefully down the hill. He knew all this and therefore waited calmly for what would happen, with more patience than the horses, especially the near one, the chestnut Falcon, who was pawing the ground and champing his bit. At last all were seated, the carriage steps were folded and pulled up, the door was shut, somebody was sent for a traveling case, and the countess leaned out and said what she had to say. Then Efím deliberately doffed his hat and began crossing himself. The postilion and all the other servants did the same. “Off, in God’s name!” said Efím, putting on his hat. “Start!” The postilion started the horses, the off pole horse tugged at his collar, the high springs creaked, and the body of the coach swayed. The footman sprang onto the box of the moving coach which jolted as it passed out of the yard onto the uneven roadway; the other vehicles jolted in their turn, and the procession of carriages moved up the street. In the carriages, the calèche, and the phaeton, all crossed themselves as they passed the church opposite the house. Those who were to remain in Moscow walked on either side of the vehicles seeing the travelers off.
Rarely had Natásha experienced so joyful a feeling as now, sitting in the carriage beside the countess and gazing at the slowly receding walls of forsaken, agitated Moscow. Occasionally she leaned out of the carriage window and looked back and then forward at the long train of wounded in front of them. Almost at the head of the line she could see the raised hood of Prince Andrew’s calèche. She did not know who was in it, but each time she looked at the procession her eyes sought that calèche. She knew it was right in front.
In Kúdrino, from the Nikítski, Présnya, and Podnovínsk Streets came several other trains of vehicles similar to the Rostóvs’, and as they passed along the Sadóvaya Street the carriages and carts formed two rows abreast.
As they were going round the Súkharev water tower Natásha, who was inquisitively and alertly scrutinizing the people driving or walking past, suddenly cried out in joyful surprise:
“Dear me! Mamma, Sónya, look, it’s he!”
“Look! Yes, on my word, it’s Bezúkhov!” said Natásha, putting her head out of the carriage and staring at a tall, stout man in a coachman’s long coat, who from his manner of walking and moving was evidently a gentleman in disguise, and who was passing under the arch of the Súkharev tower accompanied by a small, sallow-faced, beardless old man in a frieze coat.
“Yes, it really is Bezúkhov in a coachman’s coat, with a queer-looking old boy. Really,” said Natásha, “look, look!”
“No, it’s not he. How can you talk such nonsense?”
“Mamma,” screamed Natásha, “I’ll stake my head it’s he! I assure you! Stop, stop!” she cried to the coachman.
But the coachman could not stop, for from the Meshchánski Street came more carts and carriages, and the Rostóvs were being shouted at to move on and not block the way.
In fact, however, though now much farther off than before, the Rostóvs all saw Pierre—or someone extraordinarily like him—in a coachman’s coat, going down the street with head bent and a serious face beside a small, beardless old man who looked like a footman. That old man noticed a face thrust out of the carriage window gazing at them, and respectfully touching Pierre’s elbow said something to him and pointed to the carriage. Pierre, evidently engrossed in thought, could not at first understand him. At length when he had understood and looked in the direction the old man indicated, he recognized Natásha, and following his first impulse stepped instantly and rapidly toward the coach. But having taken a dozen steps he seemed to remember something and stopped.
Natásha’s face, leaning out of the window, beamed with quizzical kindliness.
“Peter Kirílovich, come here! We have recognized you! This is wonderful!” she cried, holding out her hand to him. “What are you doing? Why are you like this?”
Pierre took her outstretched hand and kissed it awkwardly as he walked along beside her while the coach still moved on.
“What is the matter, Count?” asked the countess in a surprised and commiserating tone.
“What? What? Why? Don’t ask me,” said Pierre, and looked round at Natásha whose radiant, happy expression—of which he was conscious without looking at her—filled him with enchantment.
“Are you remaining in Moscow, then?”
“In Moscow?” he said in a questioning tone. “Yes, in Moscow. Good-by!”
“Ah, if only I were a man! I’d certainly stay with you. How splendid!” said Natásha. “Mamma, if you’ll let me, I’ll stay!”
Pierre glanced absently at Natásha and was about to say something, but the countess interrupted him.
“You were at the battle, we heard.”
“Yes, I was,” Pierre answered. “There will be another battle tomorrow...” he began, but Natásha interrupted him.
“But what is the matter with you, Count? You are not like yourself....”
“Oh, don’t ask me, don’t ask me! I don’t know myself. Tomorrow... But no! Good-by, good-by!” he muttered. “It’s an awful time!” and dropping behind the carriage he stepped onto the pavement.
Natásha continued to lean out of the window for a long time, beaming at him with her kindly, slightly quizzical, happy smile.
For the last two days, ever since leaving home, Pierre had been living in the empty house of his deceased benefactor, Bazdéev. This is how it happened.
When he woke up on the morning after his return to Moscow and his interview with Count Rostopchín, he could not for some time make out where he was and what was expected of him. When he was informed that among others awaiting him in his reception room there was a Frenchman who had brought a letter from his wife, the Countess Hélène, he felt suddenly overcome by that sense of confusion and hopelessness to which he was apt to succumb. He felt that everything was now at an end, all was in confusion and crumbling to pieces, 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 Bazdéev’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 Bazdéev’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 Bazdéev’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 Krémlin 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 Bazdéevs’ house, where he had not been for a long time past. He went up to the gate. Gerásim, that sallow beardless old man Pierre had seen at Torzhók five years before with Joseph Bazdéev, came out in answer to his knock.
“At home?” asked Pierre.
“Owing to the present state of things Sophia Danílovna has gone to the Torzhók 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. Makár Alexéevich, 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 Makár Alexéevich was Joseph Bazdéev’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 Gerásim. “Will you step into the study?” Pierre nodded. “As it was sealed up so it has remained, but Sophia Danílovna 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 Bazdéev was now even gloomier.
Gerásim 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 Bazdéev’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.
Gerásim looked cautiously into the study several times and saw Pierre always sitting in the same attitude.
More than two hours passed and Gerásim 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 Gerásim 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 Gerásim. “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 Gerásim after thinking for a moment.
All the rest of that day Pierre spent alone in his benefactor’s study, and Gerásim 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.
Gerásim, 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. Makár Alexéevich 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 Gerásim had procured for him and had disinfected by steam) was on his way with the old man to buy the pistol at the Súkharev market that he met the Rostóvs.
Kutúzov’s order to retreat through Moscow to the Ryazán 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 Dorogomílov 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. Kutúzov 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 Dorogomílov 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 Poklónny 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 Borodinó 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 Poklónny 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 Poklónny 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 églises, Moscou la sainte. La voilà donc enfin, cette fameuse ville! Il était temps,” * said he, and dismounting he ordered a plan of Moscow to be spread out before him, and summoned Lelorgne d’Ideville, the interpreter.
Moscow! Here it is then at last, that famous city. It was
“A town captured by the enemy is like a maid who has lost her honor,” thought he (he had said so to Túchkov at Smolénsk). 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 Krémlin—yes, there is the Krémlin, 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’amène les boyars,” * said he to his suite.
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 Poklónny 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 chère, ma tendre, ma pauvre mère * —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 Mère, *(2) 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.
* (2) “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 the Tver, Kalúga, and Dorogomílov 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 Dorogomílov gate, but there again stopped and, dismounting from his horse, paced for a long time by the Kámmer-Kollézski 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 Kámmer-Kollézski 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 Dorogomílov suburb.
The coup de théâtre 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, Moskvá, and Yaúza bridges.
While the troops, dividing into two parts when passing around the Krémlin, were thronging the Moskvá 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 Vasíli the Beatified and under the Borovítski 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 of 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 Ilyínka 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, Iván Sidórych, 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 Moskvá 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 Vasíli 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 Ermólov, 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 Povarskáya was quite still and deserted. The huge courtyard of the Rostóvs’ 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 Ignát, and the page boy Míshka, Vasílich’s grandson who had stayed in Moscow with his grandfather. Míshka 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 Ignát?” said the boy, suddenly beginning to strike the keyboard with both hands.
“Only fancy!” answered Ignát, surprised at the broadening grin on his face in the mirror.
“Impudence! Impudence!” they heard behind them the voice of Mávra Kuzmínichna 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 Vasílich is worn out. Just you wait a bit!”
Ignát 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 Mávra Kuzmínichna, raising her arm threateningly. “Go and get the samovar to boil for your grandfather.”
Mávra Kuzmínichna 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 Vasílich, 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. Mávra Kuzmínichna went to the gate.
“Who do you want?”
“The count—Count Ilyá Andréevich Rostóv.”
“And who are you?”
“An officer, I have to see him,” came the reply in a pleasant, well-bred Russian voice.
Mávra Kuzmínichna opened the gate and an officer of eighteen, with the round face of a Rostóv, entered the yard.
“They have gone away, sir. Went away yesterday at vespertime,” said Mávra Kuzmínichna 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, Mávra Kuzmínichna was attentively and sympathetically examining the familiar Rostóv 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...”
Mávra Kuzmínichna 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 Mávra Kuzmínichna 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 Rogózhski gate?” thought he. Just then Mávra Kuzmínichna 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...”
Mávra Kuzmínichna grew abashed and confused. The officer did not decline, but took the note quietly and thanked her.
“If the count had been at home...” Mávra Kuzmínichna 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 Yaúza bridge to overtake his regiment.
But Mávra Kuzmínichna 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.