Chapter 21

AFTER THE UNCOMPROMISING REFUSAL he had received, Petya went to his own room, and there locking himself in, he wept bitterly. All his family behaved as though they noticed nothing when he came in to tea, silent and depressed with tear-stained eyes.

Petya reckoned on the success of his presentation to the Tsar simply because he was a child (Petya dreamed, indeed, of how they would wonder at his youth), and yet in his arrangement of his collar, and his hair, and in the sedate, deliberate walk he adopted, he tried to act the part of an elderly man. But the further he went, the more interested he became in the growing crowds about the Kremlin, and he forgot to keep up the sedateness and deliberation characteristic of grown-up people. As he got closer to the Kremlin, he began to try to avoid being crushed, and with a resolute and threatening mien, stuck elbows out on each side of him. But in spite of his determined air, in the Toistsky Gate the crowd, probably unaware of his patriotic object in going to the Kremlin, so pushed him against the wall, that he was obliged to submit and stand still, while carriages drove in with a rumbling sound under the archway. Near Petya stood a peasant woman, a footman, two merchants, and a discharged soldier. After standing for some time in the gateway, Petya, not caring to wait for all the carriages to pass, tried to push on before the rest, and began resolutely working away with his elbows, but the peasant woman standing next him, who was the first person he poked, shouted angrily to him:

“Why are you shoving away, little master? You see everybody’s standing still. What do you want to push for?”

“What, if every one were to push then!” said the footman; and he too setting to work with his elbows shoved Petya into the stinking corner of the gateway.

Petya rubbed the sweat off his face with his hands, and set straight the soaking collar, that he had so carefully arranged at home like a grown-up person’s.

Petya felt that he looked unpresentable, and was afraid that if he showed himself in this guise to the gentlemen-in-waiting, they would not admit him to the Tsar’s presence. But the crush gave him no possibility of setting himself straight or getting into another place. One of the generals who rode by was an acquaintance of the Rostovs. Petya wanted to ask him for help, but considered this would be below his manly dignity. When all the carriages had driven by, the crowd made a rush, and swept Petya along with it into the square, which was already full of people. Not only in the square, but on the slopes, and the roofs, and everywhere there were crowds of people. As soon as Petya got into the square, he heard the ringing of bells and the joyous hum of the crowd filling the whole Kremlin.

For a while the crush was less in the square, but all at once all heads were bared, and there was another rush forward. Petya was so crushed that he could hardly breathe, and there was a continual shouting: “Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!”

Petya tip-toed, pushed, and pinched, but he could see nothing but the crowd around him.

All the faces wore the same expression of excitement and enthusiasm. A shopkeeper’s wife standing near Petya sobbed, and tears flowed down her cheeks.

“Father, angel!” she kept saying, wiping her tears with her fingers.

“Hurrah!” shouted the crowd on all sides.

For a minute the crowd remained stationary; then there was another rush forward.

Petya, beside himself with excitement, clenched his teeth, and rolling his eyes savagely, rushed forward, elbowing his way and shouting “Hurrah!” as though he were prepared to kill himself and every one else at that moment, but just as savage faces pushed on each side of him with the same shouts of “hurrah!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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