Chapter 10

ON THE 30TH Pierre returned to Moscow. Almost at the city gates he was met by an adjutant of Count Rastoptchin’s.

“Why, we have been looking for you everywhere,” said the adjutant. “The count urgently wants to see you. He begs you to come to him at once on very important business.” Instead of going home, Pierre hailed a cab-driver and drove to the governor’s.

Count Rastoptchin had only that morning arrived from his summer villa at Sokolniky. The ante-room and waiting-room in the count’s house were full of officials, who had been summoned by him, or had come to him for instructions. Vassiltchekov and Platov had already seen the count, and informed him that the defence of Moscow was out of the question, and the city would be surrendered. Though the news was being concealed from the citizens, the heads of various departments and officials of different kinds knew that Moscow would soon be in the hands of the enemy, just as Count Rastoptchin knew it. And all of them to escape personal responsibility had come to the governor to inquire how to act in regard to the offices in their charge.

At the moment when Pierre went into the waiting-room, a courier from the army was just coming out from an interview with the count.

The courier waved his hand with a hopeless air at the questions with which he was besieged, and walked across the room.

While he waited, Pierre watched with weary eyes the various officials—young, old, military, and civilian, important and insignificant— who were gathered together in the room. All seemed dissatisfied and uneasy. Pierre went up to one group of functionaries, among whom he recognised an acquaintance. After greeting him, they went on with their conversation.

“Well, to send out and bring back again would be no harm; but in the present position of affairs there’s no answering for anything.”

“But look here, what he writes,” said another, pointing to a printed paper he held in his hand.

“That’s a different matter. That’s necessary for the common people,” said the first.

“What is it?” asked Pierre.

“The new proclamation.”

Pierre took it and began to read.

“His highness the prince has passed Mozhaisk, so as to unite with the troops that are going to join him, and has taken up a strong position, where the enemy cannot attack him suddenly. Forty-eight cannon with shells have been sent him from here, and his highness declares that he will defend Moscow to the last drop of blood, and is ready even to fight in the streets. Don’t mind, brothers, that the courts of justice are closed; we must take our measures, and we’ll deal with miscreants in our own fashion. When the time comes, I shall have need of some gallant fellows, both of town and country. I will give the word in a couple of days; but now there’s no need, and I hold my peace. The axe is useful; the pike, too, is not to be despised; but best of all is the three-pronged fork: a Frenchman is no heavier than a sheaf of rye. To-morrow after dinner, I shall take the Iversky Holy Mother to St. Catherine’s Hospital to the wounded. There we will consecrate the water; they will soon be well again. I, too am well now; one of my eyes was bad, but now I look well out of both.”

“Why, I was told by military men,” said Pierre, “that there could be no fighting in the town itself, and the position…”

“To be sure, that’s just what we are saying,” said the first speaker.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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