Chapter 20

ROSTOV had arrived at Tilsit on the day least suitable for interceding in Denisov’s behalf. It was out of the question for him to go himself to the general in attendance, since he was wearing civilian dress, and had come to Tilsit without permission to do so, and Boris, even had he been willing, could not have done so on the day following Rostov’s arrival. On that day, the 27th of June, the preliminaries of peace were signed. The Emperors exchanged orders: Alexander received the Legion of Honour, and Napoleon the Order of St. Andrey of the first degree, and that day had been fixed for the dinner to be given by a battalion of French guards to the Preobrazhensky battalion. The Emperors were to be present at this banquet. Rostov felt so uncomfortable and ill at ease with Boris, that when the latter peeped in at him after supper he pretended to be asleep, and the next day he left early in the morning to avoid seeing him. In a frock coat and round hat, Nikolay strolled about the town, staring at the French and their uniforms, examining the streets and the houses where the Russian and the French Emperors were staying. In the market-place he saw tables set out and preparations for the banquet; in the streets he saw draperies hung across with flags of the Russian and French colours, and huge monograms of A and N. In the windows of the houses, too, there were flags and monograms.

“Boris doesn’t care to help me, and I don’t care to apply to him. That question’s closed,” thought Nikolay; “everything’s over between us, but I’m not going away from here without having done all I can for Denisov, and, above all, getting the letter given to the Emperor. To the Emperor? … He is here!” thought Rostov, who had unconsciously gone back to the house occupied by Alexander.

Saddle horses were standing at the entrance, and the suite were riding up, evidently getting ready for the Emperor to come out.

“Any minute I may see him,” thought Rostov. “If only I could give him the letter directly, and tell him all … could they really arrest me for my frock coat? Impossible. He would understand on which side the truth lay. He understands everything, he knows everything. Who can be juster and more magnanimous than he? Besides, even if they were to arrest me for being here, what would it matter?” he thought, looking at an officer who was going into the house. “Why, people go in, I see. Oh! it’s all nonsense. I’ll go and give the letter to the Emperor myself; so much the worse for Drubetskoy who has driven me to it.” And all at once, with a decision he would never have expected of himself, Rostov, fingering the letter in his pocket, went straight into the house where the Emperor was staying.

“No, this time I won’t miss my opportunity as I did after Austerlitz,” he thought, expecting every minute to meet the Emperor, and feeling a rush of blood to the heart at the idea. “I will fall at his feet and will beseech him. He will lift me up, hear me out, and thank me too. ‘I am happy when I can do good, but to cancel injustice is the greatest happiness,’ ” Rostov fancied the Emperor would say to him. And he passed up the stairs regardless of the inquisitive eyes that were turned upon him. The broad staircase led straight upwards from the entry; on the right was a closed door. Below, under the stairs, was a door to the rooms on the ground floor.

“Whom are you looking for?” some one asked him.

“To give a letter, a petition, to his majesty,” said Nikolay, with a quiver in his voice.

“A petition—to the officer on duty, this way; please” (he was motioned to the door below). “Only it won’t receive attention.”

Hearing this indifferent voice, Rostov felt panic-stricken at what he was doing; the idea that he might meet the Emperor at any minute was so fascinating and consequently so terrible, that he was ready to fly; but an attendant meeting him opened the door to the officer’s room for him, and Rostov went in.

A short, stout man of about thirty in white breeches, high boots, and in a batiste shirt, apparently only just put on, was standing in this room. A valet was buttoning behind him some fine-looking, new, silk- embroidered braces, which for some reason attracted Rostov’s notice. The stout man was conversing with some one in the adjoining room.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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