Chapter 16

THE ROSTOVS’ SON-IN-LAW, Berg, was by now a colonel, with the orders of Vladimir and Anne on his neck, and was still filling the same comfortable and agreeable post of assistant to the head of the staff of the assistant of the chief officer of the staff of the commander of the left flank of the infantry of the first army.

On the 1st of September he had come into Moscow from the army.

He had absolutely nothing to do in Moscow; but he noticed that every one in the army was asking leave to go into Moscow, and was busy doing something there. He, too, thought fit to ask leave of absence on account of urgent domestic and family affairs.

Berg drove up to his father-in-law’s house in his spruce chaise, with his pair of sleek roans, precisely similar to those of a certain prince. He looked carefully at the luggage in the yard, and as he ran up the steps, he took out a clean pocket-handkerchief, and tied a knot in it.

Berg ran with a swimming, impatient step from the entry into the drawing-room, embraced the count, kissed Natasha’s hand and Sonya’s, and then hastened to inquire after mamma’s health.

“Health, at a time like this! Come, tell us what news of the army!” said the count. “Are they retreating, or will there be a battle?”

“Only Almighty God can tell what will be the fate of our Fatherland, papa,” said Berg. “The army is animated by the most ardent spirit of heroism, and now its chiefs, so to speak, are sitting in council. No one knows what is coming. But I can tell you, papa, that our heroic spirit, the truly antique valour of the Russian army, which they—it, I mean,” he corrected himself—“showed in the fight of the 26th … well, there are no words that can do justice to it.” (He smote himself on the chest just as he had seen a general do, who had used much the same phrases before him—but he was a little too late, for the blow on the chest should properly have been at the words, “the Russian army.”) “I can assure you, papa, that we officers, so far from having to urge the soldiers on, or anything of the sort, had much ado to keep in check this … yes, these exploits recalling the valour of antiquity,” he rattled off. “General Barclay de Tolly risked his life everywhere in front of his troops, I can assure you. Our corps was posted on the slope of a hill. Only fancy!” And Berg proceeded to recount all the stories he had heard repeated about the battle. Natasha stared at Berg, as though seeking the solution of some problem in his face, and her eyes disconcerted him.

“Altogether, the heroism shown by the Russian soldiers is beyond praise, and beyond description!” said Berg, looking at Natasha; and as though wishing to soften her, he smiled in response to her persistent stare … “ ‘Russia is not in Moscow, she lives in the hearts of her sons!’ Eh, papa?” said Berg.

At that moment the countess came in from the divan-room with a look of weariness and annoyance on her face. Berg skipped up, kissed the countess’s hand, asked after her health, and stood beside her, with a sympathetic shake of his head.

“Yes, mamma, to tell the truth, these are hard and sorrowful times for every Russian. But why should you be so anxious? You have still time to get away …”

“I can’t make out what the servants are about,” said the countess, addressing her husband. “They told me just now nothing was ready. Some one really must go and look after them. It’s at such times one misses Mitenka. There will be no end to it.”

The count was about to make some reply; but with a visible effort to restrain himself, got up and went to the door without a word.

Berg, meanwhile, had taken out his handkerchief as though about to blow his nose, and, seeing the knot in it, he pondered a moment, shaking his head with mournful significance.

  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.