in undertaking a task impossible for them—not from its inherent difficulties, but from its incompatibility with their own nature. He was tortured by the dread that he would be weak at the decisive moment, and so would lose his respect for himself.

Though he saw and heard nothing around him, he instinctively found his way, and took the right turning to reach Povarsky.

As Pierre got nearer to Povarsky Street, the smoke grew thicker and thicker, and the air was positively warm from the heat of the conflagration. Tongues of flame shot up here and there behind the house- tops. He met more people in the streets, and these people were in great excitement. But though Pierre felt that something unusual was happening around him, he did not grasp the fact that he was getting near the fire. As he walked along a path, across the large open space adjoining on one side Povarsky Street, and on the other side the gardens of Prince Gruzinsky, Pierre suddenly heard close by him the sound of a woman, crying desperately. He stood still, as though awakened from a dream, and raised his head.

On the dried-up, dusty grass on one side of the path lay heaps of household belongings piled up: feather- beds, a samovar, holy images, and boxes. On the ground, near the boxes, sat a thin woman, no longer young, with long, projecting front teeth, dressed in a black cloak and cap. This woman was weeping violently, swaying to and fro, and muttering something. Two little girls, from ten to twelve years old, dressed in dirty, short frocks and cloaks, were gazing at their mother, with an expression of stupefaction on their pale, frightened faces. A little boy of seven, in a coat and a huge cap, obviously not his own, was crying in an old nurse’s arms. A bare-legged, dirty servant-girl was sitting on a chest; she had let down her flaxen hair, and was pulling out the singed hairs, sniffing at them. The husband, a short, stooping man, in a uniform, with little, wheel-shaped whiskers, and smooth locks of hair, peeping out from under his cap, which was stuck erect on his head, was moving the chests from under one another with an immovable face, dragging garments of some sort from under them.

The woman almost flung herself at Pierre’s feet as soon as she saw him.

“Merciful heavens, good Christian folk, save me, help me, kind sir! … somebody, help me,” she articulated through her sobs. “My little girl! … My daughter! … My youngest girl left behind! … She’s burnt! Oo … er! What a fate I have nursed thee for … Ooo!”

“Hush, Marya Nikolaevna,” the husband said in a low voice to his wife, evidently only to justify himself before an outsider.

“Sister must have taken her, nothing else can have happened to her!” he added.

“Monster, miscreant!” the woman screeched furiously, her tears suddenly ceasing. “There is no heart in you, you have no feeling for your own child. Any other man would have rescued her from the fire. But he is a monster, not a man, not a father. You are a noble man,” the woman turned to Pierre sobbing and talking rapidly. “The row was on fire—they rushed in to tell us. The girl screamed: Fire! We rushed to get our things out. Just as we were, we escaped. … This is all we could snatch up … the blessed images, we look at the children, and the bed that was my dowry, and all the rest is lost. Katitchka’s missing. Oooo! O Lord! …” and again she broke into sobs. “My darling babe! burnt! burnt!”

“But where, where was she left?” said Pierre.

From the expression of his interested face, the woman saw that this man might help her.

“Good, kind sir!” she screamed, clutching at his legs. “Benefactor, set my heart at rest anyway … Aniska, go, you slut, show the way,” she bawled to the servant-girl, opening her mouth wide in her anger, and displaying her long teeth more than ever.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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