Chapter 21

THE RUSSIAN TROOPS were crossing Moscow from two o’clock at night to two o’clock in the day, and took with them the last departing inhabitants and wounded soldiers.

The greatest crush took place on the Kamenny bridge, the Moskvoryetsky bridge, and Yauzsky bridge. While the troops, parting in two about the Kremlin, were crowding on to the Moskvoryetsky and Kamenny bridges, an immense number of soldiers availed themselves of the stoppage and the block to turn back, and slipping stealthily and quietly by Vassily the Blessed, and under the Borovitsky gates, they made their way uphill to the Red Square, where some instinct told them they could easily carry off other people’s property. Every passage and alley of the Gostinny bazaar was filled with a crowd, such as throngs there at sales. But there were no ingratiating, alluring voices of shopmen, no hawkers, no motley, female mob of purchasers—everywherewere the uniforms and overcoats of soldiers without guns, going out in silence with loads of booty, and coming in empty-handed. The shopkeepers and shopmen (they were few) were walking about among the soldiers, like men distraught, opening and shutting their shops, and helping their assistants to carry away their wares. There were drummers in the square before the bazaar beating the muster-call. But the roll of the drum made the pillaging soldiers not run up at the call as of old, but, on the contrary, run away from the drum. Among the soldiers in the shops and passages could be seen men in the grey coats, and with the shaven heads of convicts. Two officers, one with a scarf over his uniform, on a thin, dark grey horse, the other on foot, wearing a military overcoat, stood at the corner of Ilyinka, talking. A third officer galloped up to them.

“The general has sent orders that they positively must all be driven out. Why, this is outrageous! Half the men have run off.”

“Why, are you off too? … Where are you fellows off to?” … he shouted to three infantry soldiers, who ran by him into the bazaar without guns, holding up the skirts of their overcoats. “Stop, rascals!”

“Yes, you see, how are you going to get hold of them?” answered another officer. “There’s no getting them together; we must push on so that the last may not be gone, that’s the only thing to do!”

“How’s one to push on? There they have been standing, with a block on the bridge, and they are not moving. Shouldn’t a guard be set to prevent the rest running off?”

“Why, come along! Drive them out,” shouted the senior officer.

The officer in the scarf dismounted, called up a drummer, and went with him into the arcade. Several soldiers in a group together made a rush away. A shopkeeper, with red bruises on his cheeks about his nose, with an expression on his sleek face of quiet persistence in the pursuit of gain, came hurriedly and briskly up to the officer gesticulating.

“Your honour,” said he, “graciously protect us. We are not close-fisted—any trifle now … we shall be delighted! Pray, your honour, walk in, I’ll bring out cloth in a moment—a couple of pieces even for a gentleman —we shall be delighted! For we feel how it is, but this is simple robbery! Pray, your honour! a guard or something should be set, to let us at least shut up …”

Several shopkeepers crowded round the officer.

“Eh! it’s no use clacking,” said one of them, a thin man, with a stern face; “when one’s head’s off, one doesn’t weep over one’s hair. Let all take what they please!” And with a vigorous sweep of his arm he turned away from the officer.

“It’s all very well for you to talk, Ivan Sidoritch,” the first shopkeeper began angrily. “If you please, your honour.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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