Chapter 15

THE LAST DAY of Moscow had come. It was a bright, clear autumn day. It was Sunday. The bells were ringing for service in all the churches, just as on all other Sundays. No one seemed yet able to grasp what was awaiting Moscow.

There were only two indications in the condition of society that betrayed the position of Moscow; those were the rabble, that is, the poorer class, and the prices of different objects. Factory hands, house- serfs,and peasants came out early that morning on to Three Hills in immense crowds, which were swelled by clerks, divinity students, and gentlemen. After staying there a while waiting for Rastoptchin, who did not come, and gaining the conviction that Moscow would be surrendered, this mob dispersed about the taverns and drinkshops of Moscow. Prices, too, on that day indicated the position of affairs. The prices of weapons, of carts and horses, and the value of gold rose higher and higher, while the value of paper- money and the prices of things useful in town were continually falling, so that by the middle of the day there were instances of cab-drivers carrying off at half-price expensive goods, like cloth; and while five hundred roubles was paid for a peasant’s horse, furniture, mirrors, and bronzes were given away for nothing.

In the old-fashioned and decorous house of the Rostovs the collapse of all the usual conditions of life was very slightly perceptible. In the night three out of the immense retinue of servants, did indeed disappear; but nothing was stolen, and the Rostovs were only aware of the change in the relative value of things from finding that the thirty carts from the country were of enormous value, for which they were envied by many, and offered enormous sums. Besides these would-be purchasers, all the previous evening and early in the morning of the 1st of September orderlies and servants were being continually sent into the Rostovs’ courtyard from wounded officers, and wounded men were constantly dragging themselves there from the Rostovs’ and neighbouring houses, to beseech the servants to try and get them a lift out of Moscow. The butler, to whom these requests were referred, resolutely refused, though he felt for the wounded men, and declared that he would never even dare to hint at such a thing to the count. Pitiable as the position of these wounded men was, it was obvious that if one gave up one cart to them, one might as well give all—and would even have to put the carriages too at their service. Thirty waggons could not save all the wounded, and in the general catastrophe one must think of oneself and one’s family first. So the butler reasoned on his master’s behalf.

On waking up that morning Count Ilya Andreitch slipped quietly out of his bedroom, so as not to wake his wife, who had been awake till morning, and in his lilac silk dressing-gown he came out on to the steps. The loaded waggons were standing in the courtyard. The carriages were drawn up at the steps. The butler was standing in the entrance talking with an old orderly and a pale young officer with his arm in a sling. The butler, seeing his master, made a significant and peremptory sign to them both to retire.

“Well, is everything ready, Vassilitch?” said the count, rubbing his bald head; and looking benignly at the officer and the orderly, he nodded to them. (The count was always attracted by new faces.)

“Ready to put the horses in immediately, your excellency.”

“Well, that’s capital; the countess will soon be awake, and, please God, we set off! What can I do for you, sir?” he said, addressing the officer. “You are staying in my house?”

The officer came closer. His pale face suddenly flushed crimson.

“Count, do me a great favour, allow me … for God’s sake … to get into one of your waggons. I have nothing here with me … I can go quite well with the luggage …”

Before the officer finished speaking, the orderly came up to make the same request for his master.

“Oh! yes, yes, yes,” said the count hurriedly. “I shall be very glad indeed. Vassilitch, you see to it; you have a waggon or two cleared, well … well … what’s needed …?” The count murmured some vague orders. But the glowing look of gratitude on the officer’s face instantly put the seal on the order. The count looked

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.