“The auditor wrote a petition for you,” Tushin went on, “and you ought to sign it and despatch it by this gentleman. No doubt he” (he indicated Rostov) “has influence on the staff too. You won’t find a better opportunity.”

“But I have said I won’t go cringing and fawning,” Denisov interrupted, and he went on reading his answer.

Rostov did not dare to try and persuade Denisov, though he felt instinctively that the course proposed by Tushin and the other officers was the safest. He would have felt happy if he could have been of assistance to Denisov, but he knew his stubborn will and straightforward hasty temper.

When the reading of Denisov’s biting replies, which lasted over an hour, was over, Rostov said nothing, and in the most dejected frame of mind spent the rest of the day in the society of Denisov’s companions, who had again gathered about him. He told them what he knew, and listened to the stories told by others. Denisov maintained a gloomy silence the whole evening.

Late in the evening, when Rostov was about to leave, he asked Denisov if he had no commission for him.

“Yes, wait a bit,” said Denisov. He looked round at the officers, and taking his papers from under his pillow, he went to the window where there was an inkstand, and sat down to write.

“It seems it’s no good knocking one’s head against a stone wall,” said he, coming from the window and giving Rostov a large envelope. It was the petition addressed to the Emperor that had been drawn up by the auditor. In it Denisov, making no reference to the shortcoming of the commissariat department, simply begged for mercy. “Give it, it seems…” He did not finish, and smiled a forced and sickly smile.

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