The Russian troops were passing through Moscow from two o'clock at night till two in the afternoon and bore away with them the wounded and the last of the inhabitants who were leaving.
The greatest crush during the movement of the troops took place at the Stone, Moskva, and Yauza bridges.
While the troops, dividing into two parts when passing around the Kremlin, were thronging the Moskva and the Stone bridges, a great many soldiers, taking advantage of the stoppage and congestion, turned back from the bridges and slipped stealthily and silently past the church of Vasili the Beatified and under the Borovitski gate, back up the hill to the Red Square where some instinct told them they could easily take things not belonging to them. Crowds of the kind seen at cheap sales filled all the passages and alleys of the Bazaar. But there were no dealers with voices of ingratiating affability inviting customers to enter; there were no hawkers, nor the usual motley crowd of female purchasers--but only soldiers, in uniforms and overcoats though without muskets, entering the Bazaar empty-handed and silently making their way out through its passages with bundles. Tradesmen and their assistants (of whom there were but few) moved about among the soldiers quite bewildered. They unlocked their shops and locked them up again, and themselves carried goods away with the help their assistants. On the square in front of the Bazaar were drummers beating the muster call. But the roll of the drums did not make the looting soldiers run in the direction of the drum as formerly, but made them, on the contrary, run farther away. Among the soldiers in the shops and passages some men were to be seen in gray coats, with closely shaven heads. Two officers, one with a scarf over his uniform and mounted on a lean, dark-gray horse, the other in an overcoat and on foot, stood at the corner of Ilyinka Street, talking. A third officer galloped up to them.
"The general orders them all to be driven out at once, without fail. This is outrageous! Half the men have dispersed."
"Where are you off to?... Where?..." he shouted to three infantrymen without muskets who, holding up the skirts of their overcoats, were slipping past him into the Bazaar passage. "Stop, you rascals!"
"But how are you going to stop them?" replied another officer. "There is no getting them together. The army should push on before the rest bolt, that's all!"
"How can one push on? They are stuck there, wedged on the bridge, and don't move. Shouldn't we put a cordon round to prevent the rest from running away?"
"Come, go in there and drive them out!" shouted the senior officer.
The officer in the scarf dismounted, called up a drummer, and went with him into the arcade. Some soldiers started running away in a group. A shopkeeper with red pimples on his cheeks near the nose, and a calm, persistent, calculating expression on his plump face, hurriedly and ostentatiously approached the officer, swinging his arms.
"Your honor!" said he. "Be so good as to protect us! We won't grudge trifles, you are welcome to anything--we shall be delighted! Pray!... I'll fetch a piece of cloth at once for such an honorable gentleman, or even two pieces with pleasure. For we feel how it is; but what's all this--sheer robbery! If you please, could not guards be placed if only to let us close the shop...."
Several shopkeepers crowded round the officer.
"Eh, what twaddle!" said one of them, a thin, stern-looking man. "When one's head is gone one doesn't weep for one's hair! Take what any of you like!" And flourishing his arm energetically he turned sideways to the officer.
"It's all very well for you, Ivan Sidorych, to talk," said the first tradesman angrily. "Please step inside, your honor!"
"Talk indeed!" cried the thin one. "In my three shops here I have a hundred thousand rubles' worth of goods. Can they be saved when the army has gone? Eh, what people! 'Against God's might our hands can't fight.'"
"Come inside, your honor!" repeated the tradesman, bowing.
The officer stood perplexed and his face showed indecision.
"It's not my business!" he exclaimed, and strode on quickly down one of the passages.
From one open shop came the sound of blows and vituperation, and just as the officer came up to it a man in a gray coat with a shaven head was flung out violently.
This man, bent double, rushed past the tradesman and the officer. The officer pounced on the soldiers who were in the shops, but at that moment fearful screams reached them from the huge crowd on the Moskva bridge and the officer ran out into the square.
"What is it? What is it?" he asked, but his comrade was already galloping off past Vasili the Beatified in the direction from which the screams came.
The officer mounted his horse and rode after him. When he reached the bridge he saw two unlimbered guns, the infantry crossing the bridge, several overturned carts, and frightened and laughing faces among the troops. Beside the cannon a cart was standing to which two horses were harnessed. Four borzois with collars were pressing close to the wheels. The cart was loaded high, and at the very top, beside a child's chair with its legs in the air, sat a peasant woman uttering piercing and desperate shrieks. He was told by his fellow officers that the screams of the crowd and the shrieks of the woman were due to the fact that General Ermolov, coming up to the crowd and learning that soldiers were dispersing among the shops while crowds of civilians blocked the bridge, had ordered two guns to be unlimbered and made a show of firing at the bridge. The crowd, crushing one another, upsetting carts, and shouting and squeezing desperately, had cleared off the bridge and the troops were now moving forward.
Meanwhile, the city itself was deserted. There was hardly anyone in the streets. The gates and shops were all closed, only here and there round the taverns solitary shouts or drunken songs could be heard. Nobody drove through the streets and footsteps were rarely heard. The Povarskaya was quite still and deserted. The huge courtyard of the Rostovs' house was littered with wisps of hay and with dung from the horses, and not a soul was to be seen there. In the great drawing room of the house, which had been left with all it contained, were two people. They were the yard porter Ignat, and the page boy Mishka, Vasilich's grandson who had stayed in Moscow with his grandfather. Mishka had opened the clavichord and was strumming on it with one finger. The yard porter, his arms akimbo, stood smiling with satisfaction before the large mirror.
"Isn't it fine, eh, Uncle Ignat?" said the boy, suddenly beginning to strike the keyboard with both hands.
"Only fancy!" answered Ignat, surprised at the broadening grin on his face in the mirror.
"Impudence! Impudence!" they heard behind them the voice of Mavra Kuzminichna who had entered silently. "How he's grinning, the fat mug! Is that what you're here for? Nothing's cleared away down there and Vasilich is worn out. Just you wait a bit!"
Ignat left off smiling, adjusted his belt, and went out of the room with meekly downcast eyes.
"Aunt, I did it gently," said the boy.
"I'll give you something gently, you monkey you!" cried Mavra Kuzminichna, raising her arm threateningly. "Go and get the samovar to boil for your grandfather."
Mavra Kuzminichna flicked the dust off the clavichord and closed it, and with a deep sigh left the drawing room and locked its main door.
Going out into the yard she paused to consider where she should go next--to drink tea in the servants' wing with Vasilich, or into the storeroom to put away what still lay about.
She heard the sound of quick footsteps in the quiet street. Someone stopped at the gate, and the latch rattled as someone tried to open it. Mavra Kuzminichna went to the gate.
"Who do you want?"
"The count--Count Ilya Andreevich Rostov."
"And who are you?"
"An officer, I have to see him," came the reply in a pleasant, well-bred Russian voice.
Mavra Kuzminichna opened the gate and an officer of eighteen, with the round face of a Rostov, entered the yard.
"They have gone away, sir. Went away yesterday at vespertime," said Mavra Kuzminichna cordially.
The young officer standing in the gateway, as if hesitating whether to enter or not, clicked his tongue.
"Ah, how annoying!" he muttered. "I should have come yesterday.... Ah, what a pity."
Meanwhile, Mavra Kuzminichna was attentively and sympathetically examining the familiar Rostov features of the young man's face, his tattered coat and trodden-down boots.
"What did you want to see the count for?" she asked.
"Oh well... it can't be helped!" said he in a tone of vexation and placed his hand on the gate as if to leave.
He again paused in indecision.
"You see," he suddenly said, "I am a kinsman of the count's and he has been very kind to me. As you see" (he glanced with an amused air and good-natured smile at his coat and boots) "my things are worn out and I have no money, so I was going to ask the count..."
Mavra Kuzminichna did not let him finish.
"Just wait a minute, sir. One little moment," said she.
And as soon as the officer let go of the gate handle she turned and, hurrying away on her old legs, went through the back yard to the servants' quarters.
While Mavra Kuzminichna was running to her room the officer walked about the yard gazing at his worn-out boots with lowered head and a faint smile on his lips. "What a pity I've missed Uncle! What a nice old woman! Where has she run off to? And how am I to find the nearest way to overtake my regiment, which must by now be getting near the Rogozhski gate?" thought he. Just then Mavra Kuzminichna appeared from behind the corner of the house with a frightened yet resolute look, carrying a rolled-up check kerchief in her hand. While still a few steps from the officer she unfolded the kerchief and took out of it a white twenty-five-ruble assignat and hastily handed it to him.
"If his excellency had been at home, as a kinsman he would of course... but as it is..."
Mavra Kuzminichna grew abashed and confused. The officer did not decline, but took the note quietly and thanked her.
"If the count had been at home..." Mavra Kuzminichna went on apologetically. "Christ be with you, sir! May God preserve you!" said she, bowing as she saw him out.
Swaying his head and smiling as if amused at himself, the officer ran almost at a trot through the deserted streets toward the Yauza bridge to overtake his regiment.
But Mavra Kuzminichna stood at the closed gate for some time with moist eyes, pensively swaying her head and feeling an unexpected flow of motherly tenderness and pity for the unknown young officer.
From an unfinished house on the Varvarka, the ground floor of which was a dramshop, came drunken shouts and songs. On benches round the tables in a dirty little room sat some ten factory hands. Tipsy and perspiring, with dim eyes and wide-open mouths, they were all laboriously singing some song or other. They were singing discordantly, arduously, and with great effort, evidently not because they wished to sing, but because they wanted to show they were drunk and on a spree. One, a tall, fair-haired lad in a clean blue coat, was standing over the others. His face with its fine straight nose would have been handsome had it not been for his thin, compressed, twitching lips and dull, gloomy, fixed eyes. Evidently possessed by some idea, he stood over those who were singing, and solemnly and jerkily flourished above their heads his white arm with the sleeve turned up to the elbow, trying unnaturally to spread out his dirty fingers. The sleeve of his coat kept slipping down and he always carefully rolled it up again with his left hand, as if it were most important that the sinewy white arm he was flourishing should be bare. In the midst of the song cries were heard, and fighting and blows in the passage and porch. The tall lad waved his arm.
"Stop it!" he exclaimed peremptorily. "There's a fight, lads!" And, still rolling up his sleeve, he went out to the porch.
The factory hands followed him. These men, who under the leadership of the tall lad were drinking in the dramshop that morning, had brought the publican some skins from the factory and for this had had drink served them. The blacksmiths from a neighboring smithy, hearing the sounds of revelry in the tavern and supposing it to have been broken into, wished to force their way in too and a fight in the porch had resulted.
The publican was fighting one of the smiths at the door, and when the workmen came out the smith, wrenching himself free from the tavern keeper, fell face downward on the pavement.
Another smith tried to enter the doorway, pressing against the publican with his chest.
The lad with the turned-up sleeve gave the smith a blow in the face and cried wildly: "They're fighting us, lads!"
At that moment the first smith got up and, scratching his bruised face to make it bleed, shouted in a tearful voice: "Police! Murder!... They've killed a man, lads!"
"Oh, gracious me, a man beaten to death--killed!..." screamed a woman coming out of a gate close by.
A crowd gathered round the bloodstained smith.
"Haven't you robbed people enough--taking their last shirts?" said a voice addressing the publican. "What have you killed a man for, you thief?"
The tall lad, standing in the porch, turned his bleared eyes from the publican to the smith and back again as if considering whom he ought to fight now.
"Murderer!" he shouted suddenly to the publican. "Bind him, lads!"
"I daresay you would like to bind me!" shouted the publican, pushing away the men advancing on him, and snatching his cap from his head he flung it on the ground.
As if this action had some mysterious and menacing significance, the workmen surrounding the publican paused in indecision.
"I know the law very well, mates! I'll take the matter to the captain of police. You think I won't get to him? Robbery is not permitted to anybody now a days!" shouted the publican, picking up his cap.
"Come along then! Come along then!" the publican and the tall young fellow repeated one after the other, and they moved up the street together.
The bloodstained smith went beside them. The factory hands and others followed behind, talking and shouting.
At the corner of the Moroseyka, opposite a large house with closed shutters and bearing a bootmaker's signboard, stood a score of thin, worn-out, gloomy-faced bootmakers, wearing overalls and long tattered coats.
"He should pay folks off properly," a thin workingman, with frowning brows and a straggly beard, was saying.
"But he's sucked our blood and now he thinks he's quit of us. He's been misleading us all the week and now that he's brought us to this pass he's made off."
On seeing the crowd and the bloodstained man the workman ceased speaking, and with eager curiosity all the bootmakers joined the moving crowd.
"Where are all the folks going?"
"Why, to the police, of course!"
"I say, is it true that we have been beaten?" "And what did you think? Look what folks are saying."
Questions and answers were heard. The publican, taking advantage of the increased crowd, dropped behind and returned to his tavern.
The tall youth, not noticing the disappearance of his foe, waved his bare arm and went on talking incessantly, attracting general attention to himself. It was around him that the people chiefly crowded, expecting answers from him to the questions that occupied all their minds.
"He must keep order, keep the law, that's what the government is there for. Am I not right, good Christians?" said the tall youth, with a scarcely perceptible smile. "He thinks there's no government! How can one do without government? Or else there would be plenty who'd rob us."
"Why talk nonsense?" rejoined voices in the crowd. "Will they give up Moscow like this? They told you that for fun, and you believed it! Aren't there plenty of troops on the march? Let him in, indeed! That's what the government is for. You'd better listen to what people are saying," said some of the mob pointing to the tall youth.
By the wall of China-Town a smaller group of people were gathered round a man in a frieze coat who held a paper in his hand.
"An ukase, they are reading an ukase! Reading an ukase!" cried voices in the crowd, and the people rushed toward the reader.
The man in the frieze coat was reading the broadsheet of August 31 When the crowd collected round him he seemed confused, but at the demand of the tall lad who had pushed his way up to him, he began in a rather tremulous voice to read the sheet from the beginning.
"Early tomorrow I shall go to his Serene Highness," he read ("Sirin Highness," said the tall fellow with a triumphant smile on his lips and a frown on his brow), "to consult with him to act, and to aid the army to exterminate these scoundrels. We too will take part..." the reader went on, and then paused ("Do you see," shouted the youth victoriously, "he's going to clear up the whole affair for you...."), "in destroying them, and will send these visitors to the devil. I will come back to dinner, and we'll set to work. We will do, completely do, and undo these scoundrels."
The last words were read out in the midst of complete silence. The tall lad hung his head gloomily. It was evident that no one had understood the last part. In particular, the words "I will come back to dinner," evidently displeased both reader and audience. The people's minds were tuned to a high pitch and this was too simple and needlessly comprehensible--it was what any one of them might have said and therefore was what an ukase emanating from the highest authority should not say.
They all stood despondent and silent. The tall youth moved his lips and swayed from side to side.
"We should ask him... that's he himself?"... "Yes, ask him indeed!... Why not? He'll explain"... voices in the rear of the crowd were suddenly heard saying, and the general attention turned to the police superintendent's trap which drove into the square attended by two mounted dragoons.
The superintendent of police, who had that morning by Count Rostopchin's orders to burn the barges and had in connection with that matter acquired a large sum of money which was at that moment in his pocket, on seeing a crowd bearing down upon him told his coachman to stop.
"What people are these?" he shouted to the men, who were moving singly and timidly in the direction of his trap.
"What people are these?" he shouted again, receiving no answer.
"Your honor..." replied the shopman in the frieze coat, "your honor, in accord with the proclamation of his highest excellency the count, they desire to serve, not sparing their lives, and it is not any kind of riot, but as his highest excellence said..."
"The count has not left, he is here, and an order will be issued concerning you," said the superintendent of police. "Go on!" he ordered his coachman.
The crowd halted, pressing around those who had heard what the superintendent had said, and looking at the departing trap.
The superintendent of police turned round at that moment with a scared look, said something to his coachman, and his horses increased their speed.
"It's a fraud, lads! Lead the way to him, himself!" shouted the tall youth. "Don't let him go, lads! Let him answer us! Keep him!" shouted different people and the people dashed in pursuit of the trap.
Following the superintendent of police and talking loudly the crowd went in the direction of the Lubyanka Street.
"There now, the gentry and merchants have gone away and left us to perish. Do they think we're dogs?" voices in the crowd were heard saying more and more frequently.
On the evening of the first of September, after his interview with Kutuzov, Count Rostopchin had returned to Moscow mortified and offended because he had not been invited to attend the council of war, and because Kutuzov had paid no attention to his offer to take part in the defense of the city; amazed also at the novel outlook revealed to him at the camp, which treated the tranquillity of the capital and its patriotic fervor as not merely secondary but quite irrelevant and unimportant matters. Distressed, offended, and surprised by all this, Rostopchin had returned to Moscow. After supper he lay down on a sofa without undressing, and was awakened soon after midnight by a courier bringing him a letter from Kutuzov. This letter requested the count to send police officers to guide the troops through the town, as the army was retreating to the Ryazan road beyond Moscow. This was not news to Rostopchin. He had known that Moscow would be abandoned not merely since his interview the previous day with Kutuzov on the Poklonny Hill but ever since the battle of Borodino, for all the generals who came to Moscow after that battle had said unanimously that it was impossible to fight another battle, and since then the government property had been removed every night, and half the inhabitants had left the city with Rostopchin's own permission. Yet all the same this information astonished and irritated the count, coming as it did in the form of a simple note with an order from Kutuzov, and received at night, breaking in on his beauty sleep.
When later on in his memoirs Count Rostopchin explained his actions at this time, he repeatedly says that he was then actuated by two important considerations: to maintain tranquillity in Moscow and expedite the departure of the inhabitants. If one accepts this twofold aim all Rostopchin's actions appear irreproachable. "Why were the holy relics, the arms, ammunition, gunpowder, and stores of corn not removed? Why were thousands of inhabitants deceived into believing that Moscow would not be given up--and thereby ruined?" "To presence the tranquillity of the city," explains Count Rostopchin. "Why were bundles of useless papers from the government offices, and Leppich's balloon and other articles removed?" "To leave the town empty," explains Count Rostopchin. One need only admit that public tranquillity is in danger and any action finds a justification.
All the horrors of the reign of terror were based only on solicitude for public tranquillity.
On what, then, was Count Rostopchin's fear for the tranquillity of Moscow based in 1812? What reason was there for assuming any probability of an uprising in the city? The inhabitants were leaving it and the retreating troops were filling it. Why should that cause the masses to riot?
Neither in Moscow nor anywhere in Russia did anything resembling an insurrection ever occur when the enemy entered a town. More than ten thousand people were still in Moscow on the first and second of September, and except for a mob in the governor's courtyard, assembled there at his bidding, nothing happened. It is obvious that there would have been even less reason to expect a disturbance among the people if after the battle of Borodino, when the surrender of Moscow became certain or at least probable, Rostopchin instead of exciting the people by distributing arms and broadsheets had taken steps to remove all the holy relics, the gunpowder, munitions, and money, and had told the population plainly that the town would be abandoned.
Rostopchin, though he had patriotic sentiments, was a sanguine and impulsive man who had always moved in the highest administrative circles and had no understanding at all of the people he supposed himself to be guiding. Ever since the enemy's entry into Smolensk he had in imagination been playing the role of director of the popular feeling of "the heart of Russia." Not only did it seem to him (as to all administrators) that he controlled the external actions of Moscow's inhabitants, but he also thought he controlled their mental attitude by means of his broadsheets and posters, written in a coarse tone which the people despise in their own class and do not understand from those in authority. Rostopchin was so pleased with the fine role of leader of popular feeling, and had grown so used to it, that the necessity of relinquishing that role and abandoning Moscow without any heroic display took him unawares and he suddenly felt the ground slip away from under his feet, so that he positively did not know what to do. Though he knew it was coming, he did not till the last moment wholeheartedly believe that Moscow would be abandoned, and did not prepare for it. The inhabitants left against his wishes. If the government offices were removed, this was only done on the demand of officials to whom the count yielded reluctantly. He was absorbed in the role he had created for himself. As is often the case with those gifted with an ardent imagination, though he had long known that Moscow would be abandoned he knew it only with his intellect, he did not believe it in his heart and did not adapt himself mentally to this new position of affairs.
All his painstaking and energetic activity (in how far it was useful and had any effect on the people is another question) had been simply directed toward arousing in the masses his own feeling of patriotic hatred of the French.
But when events assumed their true historical character, when expressing hatred for the French in words proved insufficient, when it was not even possible to express that hatred by fighting a battle, when self-confidence was of no avail in relation to the one question before Moscow, when the whole population streamed out of Moscow as one man, abandoning their belongings and proving by that negative action all the depth of their national feeling, then the role chosen by Rostopchin suddenly appeared senseless. He unexpectedly felt himself ridiculous, weak, and alone, with no ground to stand on.
When, awakened from his sleep, he received that cold, peremptory note from Kutuzov, he felt the more irritated the more he felt himself to blame. All that he had been specially put in charge of, the state property which he should have removed, was still in Moscow and it was no longer possible to take the whole of it away.
"Who is to blame for it? Who has let things come to such a pass?" he ruminated. "Not I, of course. I had everything ready. I had Moscow firmly in hand. And this is what they have let it come to! Villains! Traitors!" he thought, without clearly defining who the villains and traitors were, but feeling it necessary to hate those traitors whoever they might be who were to blame for the false and ridiculous position in which he found himself.
All that night Count Rostopchin issued orders, for which people came to him from all parts of Moscow. Those about him had never seen the count so morose and irritable.
"Your excellency, the Director of the Registrar's Department has sent for instructions... From the Consistory, from the Senate, from the University, from the Foundling Hospital, the Suffragan has sent... asking for information.... What are your orders about the Fire Brigade? From the governor of the prison... from the superintendent of the lunatic asylum..." All night long such announcements were continually being received by the count.
To all these inquiries he gave brief and angry replies indicating that orders from him were not now needed, that the whole affair, carefully prepared by him, had now been ruined by somebody, and that that somebody would have to bear the whole responsibility for all that might happen.
"Oh, tell that blockhead," he said in reply to the question from the Registrar's Department, "that he should remain to guard his documents. Now why are you asking silly questions about the Fire Brigade? They have horses, let them be off to Vladimir, and not leave them to the French."
"Your excellency, the superintendent of the lunatic asylum has come: what are your commands?"
"My commands? Let them go away, that's all.... And let the lunatics out into the town. When lunatics command our armies God evidently means these other madmen to be free."
In reply to an inquiry about the convicts in the prison, Count Rostopchin shouted angrily at the governor:
"Do you expect me to give you two battalions--which we have not got- for a convoy? Release them, that's all about it!"
"Your excellency, there are some political prisoners, Meshkov, Vereshchagin..."
"Vereshchagin! Hasn't he been hanged yet?" shouted Rostopchin. "Bring him to me!"
Toward nine o'clock in the morning, when the troops were already moving through Moscow, nobody came to the count any more for instructions. Those who were able to get away were going of their own accord, those who remained behind decided for themselves what they must do.
The count ordered his carriage that he might drive to Sokolniki, and sat in his study with folded hands, morose, sallow, and taciturn.
In quiet and untroubled times it seems to every administrator that it is only by his efforts that the whole population under his rule is kept going, and in this consciousness of being indispensable every administrator finds the chief reward of his labor and efforts. While the sea of history remains calm the ruler-administrator in his frail bark, holding on with a boat hook to the ship of the people and himself moving, naturally imagines that his efforts move the ship he is holding on to. But as soon as a storm arises and the sea begins to heave and the ship to move, such a delusion is no longer possible. The ship moves independently with its own enormous motion, the boat hook no longer reaches the moving vessel, and suddenly the administrator, instead of appearing a ruler and a source of power, becomes an insignificant, useless, feeble man.
Rostopchin felt this, and it was this which exasperated him.
The superintendent of police, whom the crowd had stopped, went in to see him at the same time as an adjutant who informed the count that the horses were harnessed. They were both pale, and the superintendent of police, after reporting that he had executed the instructions he had received, informed the count that an immense crowd had collected in the courtyard and wished to see him.
Without saying a word Rostopchin rose and walked hastily to his light, luxurious drawing room, went to the balcony door, took hold of the handle, let it go again, and went to the window from which he had a better view of the whole crowd. The tall lad was standing in front, flourishing his arm and saying something with a stern look. The blood stained smith stood beside him with a gloomy face. A drone of voices was audible through the closed window.
"Is my carriage ready?" asked Rostopchin, stepping back from the window.
"It is, your excellency," replied the adjutant.
Rostopchin went again to the balcony door.
"But what do they want?" he asked the superintendent of police.
"Your excellency, they say they have got ready, according to your orders, to go against the French, and they shouted something about treachery. But it is a turbulent crowd, your excellency--I hardly managed to get away from it. Your excellency, I venture to suggest..."
"You may go. I don't need you to tell me what to do!" exclaimed Rostopchin angrily.
He stood by the balcony door looking at the crowd.
"This is what they have done with Russia! This is what they have done with me!" thought he, full of an irrepressible fury that welled up within him against the someone to whom what was happening might be attributed. As often happens with passionate people, he was mastered by anger but was still seeking an object on which to vent it. "Here is that mob, the dregs of the people," he thought as he gazed at the crowd: "this rabble they have roused by their folly! They want a victim," he thought as he looked at the tall lad flourishing his arm. And this thought occurred to him just because he himself desired a victim, something on which to vent his rage.
"Is the carriage ready?" he asked again.
"Yes, your excellency. What are your orders about Vereshchagin? He is waiting at the porch," said the adjutant.
"Ah!" exclaimed Rostopchin, as if struck by an unexpected recollection.
And rapidly opening the door he went resolutely out onto the balcony. The talking instantly ceased, hats and caps were doffed, and all eyes were raised to the count.
"Good morning, lads!" said the count briskly and loudly. "Thank you for coming. I'll come out to you in a moment, but we must first settle with the villain. We must punish the villain who has caused the ruin of Moscow. Wait for me!"
And the count stepped as briskly back into the room and slammed the door behind him.
A murmur of approbation and satisfaction ran through the crowd. "He'll settle with all the villains, you'll see! And you said the French... He'll show you what law is!" the mob were saying as if reproving one another for their lack of confidence.
A few minutes later an officer came hurriedly out of the front door, gave an order, and the dragoons formed up in line. The crowd moved eagerly from the balcony toward the porch. Rostopchin, coming out there with quick angry steps, looked hastily around as if seeking someone.
"Where is he?" he inquired. And as he spoke he saw a young man coming round the corner of the house between two dragoons. He had a long thin neck, and his head, that had been half shaved, was again covered by short hair. This young man was dressed in a threadbare blue cloth coat lined with fox fur, that had once been smart, and dirty hempen convict trousers, over which were pulled his thin, dirty, trodden-down boots. On his thin, weak legs were heavy chains which hampered his irresolute movements.
"Ah!" said Rostopchin, hurriedly turning away his eyes from the young man in the fur-lined coat and pointing to the bottom step of the porch. "Put him there."
The young man in his clattering chains stepped clumsily to the spot indicated, holding away with one finger the coat collar which chafed his neck, turned his long neck twice this way and that, sighed, and submissively folded before him his thin hands, unused to work.
For several seconds while the young man was taking his place on the step the silence continued. Only among the back rows of the people, who were all pressing toward the one spot, could sighs, groans, and the shuffling of feet be heard.
While waiting for the young man to take his place on the step Rostopchin stood frowning and rubbing his face with his hand.
"Lads!" said he, with a metallic ring in his voice. "This man, Vereshchagin, is the scoundrel by whose doing Moscow is perishing."
The young man in the fur-lined coat, stooping a little, stood in a submissive attitude, his fingers clasped before him. His emaciated young face, disfigured by the half-shaven head, hung down hopelessly. At the count's first words he raised it slowly and looked up at him as if wishing to say something or at least to meet his eye. But Rostopchin did not look at him. A vein in the young man's long thin neck swelled like a cord and went blue behind the ear, and suddenly his face flushed.
All eyes were fixed on him. He looked at the crowd, and rendered more hopeful by the expression he read on the faces there, he smiled sadly and timidly, and lowering his head shifted his feet on the step.
"He has betrayed his Tsar and his country, he had gone over to Bonaparte. He alone of all the Russians has disgraced the Russian name, he has caused Moscow to perish," said Rostopchin in a sharp, even voice, but suddenly he glanced down at Vereshchagin who continued to stand in the same submissive attitude. As if inflamed by the sight, he raised his arm and addressed the people, almost shouting:
"Deal with him as you think fit! I hand him over to you."
The crowd remained silent and only pressed closer and closer to one another. To keep one another back, to breathe in that stifling atmosphere, to be unable to stir, and to await something unknown, uncomprehended, and terrible, was becoming unbearable. Those standing in front, who had seen and heard what had taken place before them, all stood with wide open eyes and mouths, straining with all their strength, and held back the crowd that was pushing behind them.
"Beat him!... Let the traitor perish and not disgrace the Russian name!" shouted Rostopchin. "Cut him down. I command it."
Hearing not so much the words as the angry tone of Rostopchin's voice, the crowd moaned and heaved forward, but again paused.
"Count!" exclaimed the timid yet theatrical voice of Vereshchagin in the midst of the momentary silence that ensued, "Count! One God is above us both...." He lifted his head and again the thick vein in his thin neck filled with blood and the color rapidly came and went in his face.
He did not finish what he wished to say.
"Cut him down! I command it..." shouted Rostopchin, suddenly growing pale like Vereshchagin.
"Draw sabers!" cried the dragoon officer, drawing his own.
Another still stronger wave flowed through the crowd and reaching the front ranks carried it swaying to the very steps of the porch. The tall youth, with a stony look on his face, and rigid and uplifted arm, stood beside Vereshchagin.
"Saber him!" the dragoon officer almost whispered.
And one of the soldiers, his face all at once distorted with fury, struck Vereshchagin on the head with the blunt side of his saber.
"Ah!" cried Vereshchagin in meek surprise, looking round with a frightened glance as if not understanding why this was done to him. A similar moan of surprise and horror ran through the crowd. "O Lord!" exclaimed a sorrowful voice.
But after the exclamation of surprise that had escaped from Vereshchagin he uttered a plaintive cry of pain, and that cry was fatal. The barrier of human feeling, strained to the utmost, that had held the crowd in check suddenly broke. The crime had begun and must now be completed. The plaintive moan of reproach was drowned by the threatening and angry roar of the crowd. Like the seventh and last wave that shatters a ship, that last irresistible wave burst from the rear and reached the front ranks, carrying them off their feet and engulfing them all. The dragoon was about to repeat his blow. Vereshchagin with a cry of horror, covering his head with his hands, rushed toward the crowd. The tall youth, against whom he stumbled, seized his thin neck with his hands and, yelling wildly, fell with him under the feet of the pressing, struggling crowd.
Some beat and tore at Vereshchagin, others at the tall youth. And the screams of those that were being trampled on and of those who tried to rescue the tall lad only increased the fury of the crowd. It was a long time before the dragoons could extricate the bleeding youth, beaten almost to death. And for a long time, despite the feverish haste with which the mob tried to end the work that had been begun, those who were hitting, throttling, and tearing at Vereshchagin were unable to kill him, for the crowd pressed from all sides, swaying as one mass with them in the center and rendering it impossible for them either to kill him or let him go.
"Hit him with an ax, eh!... Crushed?... Traitor, he sold Christ.... Still alive... tenacious... serves him right! Torture serves a thief right. Use the hatchet!... What--still alive?"
Only when the victim ceased to struggle and his cries changed to a long-drawn, measured death rattle did the crowd around his prostrate, bleeding corpse begin rapidly to change places. Each one came up, glanced at what had been done, and with horror, reproach, and astonishment pushed back again.
"O Lord! The people are like wild beasts! How could he be alive?" voices in the crowd could be heard saying. "Quite a young fellow too... must have been a merchant's son. What men!... and they say he's not the right one.... How not the right one?... O Lord! And there's another has been beaten too--they say he's nearly done for.... Oh, the people... Aren't they afraid of sinning?..." said the same mob now, looking with pained distress at the dead body with its long, thin, half-severed neck and its livid face stained with blood and dust.
A painstaking police officer, considering the presence of a corpse in his excellency's courtyard unseemly, told the dragoons to take it away. Two dragoons took it by its distorted legs and dragged it along the ground. The gory, dust-stained, half-shaven head with its long neck trailed twisting along the ground. The crowd shrank back from it.
At the moment when Vereshchagin fell and the crowd closed in with savage yells and swayed about him, Rostopchin suddenly turned pale and, instead of going to the back entrance where his carriage awaited him, went with hurried steps and bent head, not knowing where and why, along the passage leading to the rooms on the ground floor. The count's face was white and he could not control the feverish twitching of his lower jaw.
"This way, your excellency... Where are you going?... This way, please..." said a trembling, frightened voice behind him.
Count Rostopchin was unable to reply and, turning obediently, went in the direction indicated. At the back entrance stood his caleche. The distant roar of the yelling crowd was audible even there. He hastily took his seat and told the coachman to drive him to his country house in Sokolniki.
When they reached the Myasnitski Street and could no longer hear the shouts of the mob, the count began to repent. He remembered with dissatisfaction the agitation and fear he had betrayed before his subordinates. "The mob is terrible--disgusting," he said to himself in French. "They are like wolves whom nothing but flesh can appease." "Count! One God is above us both!"--Vereshchagin's words suddenly recurred to him, and a disagreeable shiver ran down his back. But this was only a momentary feeling and Count Rostopchin smiled disdainfully at himself. "I had other duties," thought he. "The people had to be appeased. Many other victims have perished and are perishing for the public good"--and he began thinking of his social duties to his family and to the city entrusted to him, and of himself--not himself as Theodore Vasilyevich Rostopchin (he fancied that Theodore Vasilyevich Rostopchin was sacrificing himself for the public good) but himself as governor, the representative of authority and of the Tsar. "Had I been simply Theodore Vasilyevich my course of action would have been quite different, but it was my duty to safeguard my life and dignity as commander in chief."
Lightly swaying on the flexible springs of his carriage and no longer hearing the terrible sounds of the crowd, Rostopchin grew physically calm and, as always happens, as soon as he became physically tranquil his mind devised reasons why he should be mentally tranquil too. The thought which tranquillized Rostopchin was not a new one. Since the world began and men have killed one another no one has ever committed such a crime against his fellow man without comforting himself with this same idea. This idea is le bien public, the hypothetical welfare of other people.
To a man not swayed by passion that welfare is never certain, but he who commits such a crime always knows just where that welfare lies. And Rostopchin now knew it.
Not only did his reason not reproach him for what he had done, but he even found cause for self-satisfaction in having so successfully contrived to avail himself of a convenient opportunity to punish a criminal and at the same time pacify the mob.
"Vereshchagin was tried and condemned to death," thought Rostopchin (though the Senate had only condemned Vereshchagin to hard labor), "he was a traitor and a spy. I could not let him go unpunished and so I have killed two birds with one stone: to appease the mob I gave them a victim and at the same time punished a miscreant."
Having reached his country house and begun to give orders about domestic arrangements, the count grew quite tranquil.
Half an hour later he was driving with his fast horses across the Sokolniki field, no longer thinking of what had occurred but considering what was to come. He was driving to the Yauza bridge where he had heard that Kutuzov was. Count Rostopchin was mentally preparing the angry and stinging reproaches he meant to address to Kutuzov for his deception. He would make that foxy old courtier feel that the responsibility for all the calamities that would follow the abandonment of the city and the ruin of Russia (as Rostopchin regarded it) would fall upon his doting old head. Planning beforehand what he would say to Kutuzov, Rostopchin turned angrily in his caleche and gazed sternly from side to side.
The Sokolniki field was deserted. Only at the end of it, in front of the almshouse and the lunatic asylum, could be seen some people in white and others like them walking singly across the field shouting and gesticulating.
One of these was running to cross the path of Count Rostopchin's carriage, and the count himself, his coachman, and his dragoons looked with vague horror and curiosity at these released lunatics and especially at the one running toward them.
Swaying from side to side on his long, thin legs in his fluttering dressing gown, this lunatic was running impetuously, his gaze fixed on Rostopchin, shouting something in a hoarse voice and making signs to him to stop. The lunatic's solemn, gloomy face was thin and yellow, with its beard growing in uneven tufts. His black, agate pupils with saffron-yellow whites moved restlessly near the lower eyelids.
"Stop! Pull up, I tell you!" he cried in a piercing voice, and again shouted something breathlessly with emphatic intonations and gestures.
Coming abreast of the caleche he ran beside it.
"Thrice have they slain me, thrice have I risen from the dead. They stoned me, crucified me... I shall rise... shall rise... shall rise. They have torn my body. The kingdom of God will be overthrown... Thrice will I overthrow it and thrice re-establish it!" he cried, raising his voice higher and higher.
Count Rostopchin suddenly grew pale as he had done when the crowd closed in on Vereshchagin. He turned away. "Go fas... faster!" he cried in a trembling voice to his coachman. The caleche flew over the ground as fast as the horses could draw it, but for a long time Count Rostopchin still heard the insane despairing screams growing fainter in the distance, while his eyes saw nothing but the astonished, frightened, bloodstained face of "the traitor" in the fur-lined coat.
Recent as that mental picture was, Rostopchin already felt that it had cut deep into his heart and drawn blood. Even now he felt clearly that the gory trace of that recollection would not pass with time, but that the terrible memory would, on the contrary, dwell in his heart ever more cruelly and painfully to the end of his life. He seemed still to hear the sound of his own words: "Cut him down! I command it...."
"Why did I utter those words? It was by some accident I said them.... I need not have said them," he thought. "And then nothing would have happened." He saw the frightened and then infuriated face of the dragoon who dealt the blow, the look of silent, timid reproach that boy in the fur-lined coat had turned upon him. "But I did not do it for my own sake. I was bound to act that way.... The mob, the traitor... the public welfare," thought he.
Troops were still crowding at the Yauza bridge. It was hot. Kutuzov, dejected and frowning, sat on a bench by the bridge toying with his whip in the sand when a caleche dashed up noisily. A man in a general's uniform with plumes in his hat went up to Kutuzov and said something in French. It was Count Rostopchin. He told Kutuzov that he had come because Moscow, the capital, was no more and only the army remained.
"Things would have been different if your Serene Highness had not told me that you would not abandon Moscow without another battle; all this would not have happened," he said.
Kutuzov looked at Rostopchin as if, not grasping what was said to him, he was trying to read something peculiar written at that moment on the face of the man addressing him. Rostopchin grew confused and became silent. Kutuzov slightly shook his head and not taking his penetrating gaze from Rostopchin's face muttered softly:
"No! I shall not give up Moscow without a battle!"
Whether Kutuzov was thinking of something entirely different when he spoke those words, or uttered them purposely, knowing them to be meaningless, at any rate Rostopchin made no reply and hastily left him. And strange to say, the Governor of Moscow, the proud Count Rostopchin, took up a Cossack whip and went to the bridge where he began with shouts to drive on the carts that blocked the way.