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Chapter XI.10

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On the thirteenth of August Pierre reached Moscow. Close to the gates of the city he was met by Count Rostopchin's adjutant.

"We have been looking for you everywhere," said the adjutant. "The count wants to see you particularly. He asks you to come to him at once on a very important matter."

Without going home, Pierre took a cab and drove to see the Moscow commander in chief.

Count Rostopchin had only that morning returned to town from his summer villa at Sokolniki. The anteroom and reception room of his house were full of officials who had been summoned or had come for orders. Vasilchikov and Platov had already seen the count and explained to him that it was impossible to defend Moscow and that it would have to be surrendered. Though this news was being concealed from the inhabitants, the officials- the heads of the various government departments- knew that Moscow would soon be in the enemy's hands, just as Count Rostopchin himself knew it, and to escape personal responsibility they had all come to the governor to ask how they were to deal with their various departments.

As Pierre was entering the reception room a courier from the army came out of Rostopchin's private room.

In answer to questions with which he was greeted, the courier made a despairing gesture with his hand and passed through the room.

While waiting in the reception room Pierre with weary eyes watched the various officials, old and young, military and civilian, who were there. They all seemed dissatisfied and uneasy. Pierre went up to a group of men, one of whom he knew. After greeting Pierre they continued their conversation.

"If they're sent out and brought back again later on it will do no harm, but as things are now one can't answer for anything."

"But you see what he writes..." said another, pointing to a printed sheet he held in his hand.

"That's another matter. That's necessary for the people," said the first.

"What is it?" asked Pierre.

"Oh, it's a fresh broadsheet."

Pierre took it and began reading.

His Serene Highness has passed through Mozhaysk in order to join up with the troops moving toward him and has taken up a strong position where the enemy will not soon attack him. Forty eight guns with ammunition have been sent him from here, and his Serene Highness says he will defend Moscow to the last drop of blood and is even ready to fight in the streets. Do not be upset, brothers, that the law courts are closed; things have to be put in order, and we will deal with villains in our own way! When the time comes I shall want both town and peasant lads and will raise the cry a day or two beforehand, but they are not wanted yet so I hold my peace. An ax will be useful, a hunting spear not bad, but a three-pronged fork will be best of all: a Frenchman is no heavier than a sheaf of rye. Tomorrow after dinner I shall take the Iberian icon of the Mother of God to the wounded in the Catherine Hospital where we will have some water blessed. That will help them to get well quicker. I, too, am well now: one of my eyes was sore but now I am on the lookout with both.

"But military men have told me that it is impossible to fight in the town," said Pierre, "and that the position..."

"Well, of course! That's what we were saying," replied the first speaker.

"And what does he mean by 'One of my eyes was sore but now I am on the lookout with both'?" asked Pierre.

"The count had a sty," replied the adjutant smiling, "and was very much upset when I told him people had come to ask what was the matter with him. By the by, Count," he added suddenly, addressing Pierre with a smile, "we heard that you have family troubles and that the countess, your wife..."

"I have heard nothing," Pierre replied unconcernedly. "But what have you heard?"

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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