Chapter 25

BY NINE O’CLOCK in the morning, when the troops were moving across Moscow, people had ceased coming to Rastoptchin for instructions. All who could get away were going without asking leave; those who stayed decided for themselves what they had better do.

Count Rastoptchin ordered his horses in order to drive to Sokolniky, and with a yellow and frowning face, sat in silence with folded arms in his study.

Every governing official in quiet, untroubled times feels that the whole population under his charge is only kept going by his efforts; and it is this sense of being indispensably necessary in which every governing official finds the chief reward for his toils and cares. It is easy to understand that while the ocean of history is calm, the governing official holding on from his crazy little skiff by a pole to the ship of the people, and moving with it, must fancy that it is his efforts that move the ship on to which he is clinging. But a storm has but to arise to set the sea heaving and the ship tossing upon it, and such error becomes at once impossible. The ship goes on its vast course unchecked, the pole fails to reach the moving vessel, and the pilot, from being the master, the source of power, finds himself a helpless, weak, and useless person.

Rastoptchin felt this, and it drove him to frenzy. The head of the police, who had got away from the crowd, went in to see him at the same time as an adjutant, who came to announce that his horses were ready. Both were pale, and the head of the police, after reporting that he had discharged the commission given to him, informed Count Rastoptchin that there was an immense crowd of people in his courtyard wanting to see him.

Without a word in reply, Count Rastoptchin got up and walked with rapid steps to his light, sumptuously furnished drawing-room. He went up to the balcony door, took hold of the door-handle, let go of it, and moved away to the window, from which the whole crowd could be better seen. The tall young fellow was standing in the front, and with a severe face, waving his arms and saying something. The blood- bespattered smith stood beside him with a gloomy air. Through the closed windows could be heard the roar of voices.

“Is the carriage ready?” said Rastoptchin, moving back from the window.

“Yes, your excellency,” said the adjutant.

Rastoptchin went again to the balcony door.

“Why, what is it they want?” he asked the head of the police.

“Your excellency, they say they have come together to go to fight the French, by your orders; they were shouting something about treachery. But it is an angry crowd, your excellency. I had much ado to get away. If I may venture to suggest, your excellency …”

“Kindly leave me; I know what to do without your assistance,” cried Rastoptchin angrily. He stood at the door of the balcony looking at the crowd. “This is what they have done with Russia! This is what they have done with me!” thought Rastoptchin, feeling a rush of irrepressible rage against the undefined some one to whose fault what was happening could be set down. As is often the case with excitable persons, he was possessed by fury, while still seeking an object for it. “Here is the populace, the dregs of the people,” he thought, looking at the crowd, “that they have stirred up by their folly. They want a victim,” came into his mind, as he watched the waving arm of the tall fellow in front. And the thought struck him precisely because he too wanted a victim, an object for his wrath.

“Is the carriage ready?” he asked again.

“Yes, your excellency. What orders in regard to Vereshtchagin? He is waiting at the steps,” answered the adjutant.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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