Chapter 22

ON THE MORNING of the 15th, the next day but one, a great number of carriages stood outside the Slobodsky palace.

The great halls were full. In the first were the noblemen in their uniforms; in the second there were merchants with medals and long beards, wearing blue, full-skirted coats. The first room was full of noise and movement. The more important personages were sitting on high-backed chairs at a big table under the Tsar’s portrait; but the greater number of the noblemen were walking about the hall.

The noblemen, whom Pierre saw every day either at the club or at their houses, were all in uniforms; some in those of Catherine’s court, some in those of the Emperor Pavel, and some in the new uniforms of Alexander’s reign, others in the common uniforms of the nobility, and the general character of their dress gave a strange and fantastic look to these old and young, most diverse and familiar faces. Particularly striking were the older men, dim-eyed, toothless, bald, and thin, with faces wrinkled or lost in yellow fat. They sat still for the most part and were silent, or if they walked and talked, attached themselves to some one younger. Just like the faces Petya had seen in the crowd, all these faces, in their universal expectation of something solemn, presented a striking contrast with their everyday, yesterday’s aspect, when talking over their game of boston, Petrushka the cook, the health of Zinaida Dmitryevna, etc., etc.

Pierre, who had been since early morning in an uncomfortable uniform, that had become too tight for him, was in the room. He was in a state of excitement; this extraordinary assembly, not only of the nobility, but of the merchant class too—the estates, états généraux—called up in him a whole series of ideas of the Contrat Social and the French Revolution, ideas imprinted deeply on his soul, though they had long been laid aside. The words he had noticed in the manifesto, that the Tsar was coming to the capital for deliberation with his people, confirmed him in this chain of thought. And supposing that something of importance in that direction was near at hand, that what he had long been looking for was coming, he looked and listened attentively, but he saw nowhere any expression of the ideas that engrossed him.

The Tsar’s manifesto was read, and evoked enthusiasm; and then all moved about, talking. Apart from their everyday interests, Pierre heard discussion as to where the marshals were to stand when the Tsar should come in, when the ball was to be given for the Tsar, whether they were to be divided according to districts or the whole province together… and so on. But as soon as the war and the whole object of their meeting together was touched upon, the talk was uncertain and hesitating. Every one seemed to prefer listening to speaking.

A manly-looking, handsome, middle-aged man, wearing the uniform of a retired naval officer, was speaking, and a little crowd was gathered about him in one of the rooms. Pierre went up to the circle that had formed round him, and began to listen. Count Ilya Andreitch, in his uniform of Catherine’s time, was walking about with a pleasant smile among the crowd, with all of whom he was acquainted. He too approached this group, and began to listen with a good-humoured smile, as he always did listen, nodding his head approvingly in token of his agreeing with the speaker. The retired naval officer was speaking very boldly (that could be seen from the expression on the faces of the listeners and from the fact that some persons, known to Pierre as particularly submissive and timid, drew back from him in disapprobation or expressed dissent). Pierre pushed his way into the middle of the circle, listened, and gained the conviction that the speaker certainly was a liberal, but in quite a different sense from what Pierre was looking for. The naval officer spoke in the peculiarly mellow, sing-song baritone of a Russian nobleman, with peculiar burring of the r’s and suppression of the consonants, in the voice in which men shout: “Waiter, pipe!” and such phrases. He talked with the habit of riotous living and of authority in his voice.

“What if the Smolensk people have offered the Emperor a levy of militia. Are the Smolensk people any rule for us? If the nobility of the Moscow province thinks fit, it can show its devotion to our sovereign the Emperor by other means. Have we forgotten the militia in the year 1807? It was only the beggarly priests’ sons and thieves made a good thing of it.…”

Count Ilya Andreitch, smiling blandly, nodded his head in approval.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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