Chapter 9

IN THE GUARD-ROOM to which Pierre had been taken, the officer and soldiers in charge treated him with hostility, but at the same time with respect. Their attitude to him betrayed both doubt who he might be—perhaps a person of great importance—and hostility, in consequence of the personal conflict they had so recently had with him.

But when on the morning of the next day the guard was relieved, Pierre felt that for his new guard—both officers and soldiers—he was no longer an object of the same interest as he had been to those who had taken him prisoner. And, indeed, in the big, stout man in a peasant’s coat, the sentinels in charge next day saw nothing of the vigorous person who had fought so desperately with the pillaging soldier and the convoy, and had uttered that solemn phrase about saving a child; they saw in him only number seventeen of the Russian prisoners who were to be detained for some reason by order of the higher authorities. If there were anything peculiar about Pierre, it lay only in his undaunted air of concentrated thought, and in the excellent French in which, to the surprise of the French, he expressed himself. In spite of that, Pierre was put that day with the other suspicious characters who had been apprehended, since the room he had occupied was wanted for an officer.

All the Russians detained with Pierre were persons of the lowest class. And all of them, recognising Pierre as a gentleman, held aloof from him all the more for his speaking French. Pierre mournfully heard their jeers at his expense.

On the following evening, Pierre learned that all the prisoners (and himself probably in the number) were to be tried for incendiarism. The day after, Pierre was taken with the rest to a house where were sitting a French general with white moustaches, two colonels, and other Frenchmen with scarfs on their shoulders. With that peculiar exactitude and definiteness, which is always employed in the examination of prisoners and is supposed to preclude all human weaknesses, they put questions to Pierre and the others, asking who he was, where he had been, with what object, and so on.

These questions, leaving on one side the essence of the living fact, and excluding all possibility of that essence being discovered, like all questions, indeed, in legal examinations, aimed only at directing the channel along which the examining officials desired the prisoner’s answers to flow, so as to lead him to the goal of the inquiry—that is, to conviction. So soon as he began to say anything that was not conducive to this aim, then they pulled up the channel, and the water might flow where it would. Moreover, Pierre felt, as the accused always do feel at all trials, a puzzled wonder why all these questions were asked him. He had a feeling that it was only out of condescension, out of a sort of civility, that this trick of directing the channel of their replies was made use of. He knew he was in the power of these men, that it was only by superior force that he had been brought here, that it was only superior force that gave them the right to exact answers to their questions, that the whole aim of the proceeding was to convict him. And, therefore, since they had superior force, and they had the desire to convict him, there seemed no need of the network of questions and the trial. It was obvious that all the questions were bound to lead up to his conviction. To the inquiry what he was doing when he was apprehended, Pierre replied with a certain tragic dignity that he was carrying back to its parents a child he had “rescued from the flames.” Why was he fighting with the soldiers? Pierre replied that he was defending a woman, that the defence of an insulted woman was the duty of every man, and so on … He was pulled up; this was irrelevant. With what object had he been in the courtyard of a burning house where he had been seen by several witnesses? He answered that he was going out to see what was going on in Moscow. He was pulled up again. He had not been asked, he was told, where he was going, but with what object he was near the fire. Who was he? The first question was repeated, to which he had said he did not want to answer. Again he replied that he could not answer that.

“Write that down, that’s bad. Very bad,” the general with the white whiskers and the red, flushed face said to him sternly.

On the fourth day, fire broke out on the Zubovsky rampart.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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