Helene, having returned with the court from Vilna to Petersburg, found herself in a difficult position.
In Petersburg she had enjoyed the special protection of a grandee who occupied one of the highest posts in the Empire. In Vilna she had formed an intimacy with a young foreign prince. When she returned to Petersburg both the magnate and the prince were there, and both claimed their rights. Helene was faced by a new problem--how to preserve her intimacy with both without offending either.
What would have seemed difficult or even impossible to another woman did not cause the least embarrassment to Countess Bezukhova, who evidently deserved her reputation of being a very clever woman. Had she attempted concealment, or tried to extricate herself from her awkward position by cunning, she would have spoiled her case by acknowledging herself guilty. But Helene, like a really great man who can do whatever he pleases, at once assumed her own position to be correct, as she sincerely believed it to be, and that everyone else was to blame.
The first time the young foreigner allowed himself to reproach her, she lifted her beautiful head and, half turning to him, said firmly: "That's just like a man--selfish and cruel! I expected nothing else. A woman sacrifices herself for you, she suffers, and this is her reward! What right have you, monseigneur, to demand an account of my attachments and friendships? He is a man who has been more than a father to me!" The prince was about to say something, but Helene interrupted him.
"Well, yes," said she, "it may be that he has other sentiments for me than those of a father, but that is not a reason for me to shut my door on him. I am not a man, that I should repay kindness with ingratitude! Know, monseigneur, that in all that relates to my intimate feelings I render account only to God and to my conscience," she concluded, laying her hand on her beautiful, fully expanded bosom and looking up to heaven.
"But for heaven's sake listen to me!"
"Marry me, and I will be your slave!"
"But that's impossible."
"You won't deign to demean yourself by marrying me, you..." said Helene, beginning to cry.
The prince tried to comfort her, but Helene, as if quite distraught, said through her tears that there was nothing to prevent her marrying, that there were precedents (there were up to that time very few, but she mentioned Napoleon and some other exalted personages), that she had never been her husband's wife, and that she had been sacrificed.
"But the law, religion..." said the prince, already yielding.
"The law, religion... What have they been invented for if they can't arrange that?" said Helene.
The prince was surprised that so simple an idea had not occurred to him, and he applied for advice to the holy brethren of the Society of Jesus, with whom he was on intimate terms.
A few days later at one of those enchanting fetes which Helene gave at her country house on the Stone Island, the charming Monsieur de Jobert, a man no longer young, with snow white hair and brilliant black eyes, a Jesuit a robe courte* was presented to her, and in the garden by the light of the illuminations and to the sound of music talked to her for a long time of the love of God, of Christ, of the Sacred Heart, and of the consolations the one true Catholic religion affords in this world and the next. Helene was touched, and more than once tears rose to her eyes and to those of Monsieur de Jobert and their voices trembled. A dance, for which her partner came to seek her, put an end to her discourse with her future directeur de conscience, but the next evening Monsieur de Jobert came to see Helene when she was alone, and after that often came again.
*Lay member of the Society of Jesus.
One day he took the countess to a Roman Catholic church, where she knelt down before the altar to which she was led. The enchanting, middle-aged Frenchman laid his hands on her head and, as she herself afterward described it, she felt something like a fresh breeze wafted into her soul. It was explained to her that this was la grace.
After that a long-frocked abbe was brought to her. She confessed to him, and he absolved her from her sins. Next day she received a box containing the Sacred Host, which was left at her house for her to partake of. A few days later Helene learned with pleasure that she had now been admitted to the true Catholic Church and that in a few days the Pope himself would hear of her and would send her a certain document.
All that was done around her and to her at this time, all the attention devoted to her by so many clever men and expressed in such pleasant, refined ways, and the state of dove-like purity she was now in (she wore only white dresses and white ribbons all that time) gave her pleasure, but her pleasure did not cause her for a moment to forget her aim. And as it always happens in contests of cunning that a stupid person gets the better of cleverer ones, Helene- having realized that the main object of all these words and all this trouble was, after converting her to Catholicism, to obtain money from her for Jesuit institutions (as to which she received indications)- before parting with her money insisted that the various operations necessary to free her from her husband should be performed. In her view the aim of every religion was merely to preserve certain proprieties while affording satisfaction to human desires. And with this aim, in one of her talks with her Father Confessor, she insisted on an answer to the question, in how far was she bound by her marriage?
They were sitting in the twilight by a window in the drawing room. The scent of flowers came in at the window. Helene was wearing a white dress, transparent over her shoulders and bosom. The abbe, a well-fed man with a plump, clean-shaven chin, a pleasant firm mouth, and white hands meekly folded on his knees, sat close to Helene and, with a subtle smile on his lips and a peaceful look of delight at her beauty, occasionally glanced at her face as he explained his opinion on the subject. Helene with an uneasy smile looked at his curly hair and his plump, clean-shaven, blackish cheeks and every moment expected the conversation to take a fresh turn. But the abbe, though he evidently enjoyed the beauty of his companion, was absorbed in his mastery of the matter.
The course of the Father Confessor's arguments ran as follows: "Ignorant of the import of what you were undertaking, you made a vow of conjugal fidelity to a man who on his part, by entering the married state without faith in the religious significance of marriage, committed an act of sacrilege. That marriage lacked the dual significance it should have had. Yet in spite of this your vow was binding. You swerved from it. What did you commit by so acting? A venial, or a mortal, sin? A venial sin, for you acted without evil intention. If now you married again with the object of bearing children, your sin might be forgiven. But the question is again a twofold one: firstly..."
But suddenly Helene, who was getting bored, said with one of her bewitching smiles: "But I think that having espoused the true religion I cannot be bound by what a false religion laid upon me."
The director of her conscience was astounded at having the case presented to him thus with the simplicity of Columbus' egg. He was delighted at the unexpected rapidity of his pupil's progress, but could not abandon the edifice of argument he had laboriously constructed.
"Let us understand one another, Countess," said he with a smile, and began refuting his spiritual daughter's arguments.
Helene understood that the question was very simple and easy from the ecclesiastical point of view, and that her directors were making difficulties only because they were apprehensive as to how the matter would be regarded by the secular authorities.
So she decided that it was necessary to prepare the opinion of society. She provoked the jealousy of the elderly magnate and told him what she had told her other suitor; that is, she put the matter so that the only way for him to obtain a right over her was to marry her. The elderly magnate was at first as much taken aback by this suggestion of marriage with a woman whose husband was alive, as the younger man had been, but Helene's imperturbable conviction that it was as simple and natural as marrying a maiden had its effect on him too. Had Helene herself shown the least sign of hesitation, shame, or secrecy, her cause would certainly have been lost; but not only did she show no signs of secrecy or shame, on the contrary, with good-natured naivete she told her intimate friends (and these were all Petersburg) that both the prince and the magnate had proposed to her and that she loved both and was afraid of grieving either.
A rumor immediately spread in Petersburg, not that Helene wanted to be divorced from her husband (had such a report spread many would have opposed so illegal an intention) but simply that the unfortunate and interesting Helene was in doubt which of the two men she should marry. The question was no longer whether this was possible, but only which was the better match and how the matter would be regarded at court. There were, it is true, some rigid individuals unable to rise to the height of such a question, who saw in the project a desecration of the sacrament of marriage, but there were not many such and they remained silent, while the majority were interested in Helene's good fortune and in the question which match would be the more advantageous. Whether it was right or wrong to remarry while one had a husband living they did not discuss, for that question had evidently been settled by people "wiser than you or me," as they said, and to doubt the correctness of that decision would be to risk exposing one's stupidity and incapacity to live in society.
Only Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, had come to Petersburg that summer to see one of her sons, allowed herself plainly to express an opinion contrary to the general one. Meeting Helene at a ball she stopped her in the middle of the room and, amid general silence, said in her gruff voice: "So wives of living men have started marrying again! Perhaps you think you have invented a novelty? You have been forestalled, my dear! It was thought of long ago. It is done in all the brothels," and with these words Marya Dmitrievna, turning up her wide sleeves with her usual threatening gesture and glancing sternly round, moved across the room.
Though people were afraid of Marya Dmitrievna she was regarded in Petersburg as a buffoon, and so of what she had said they only noticed, and repeated in a whisper, the one coarse word she had used, supposing the whole sting of her remark to lie in that word.
Prince Vasili, who of late very often forgot what he had said and repeated one and the same thing a hundred times, remarked to his daughter whenever he chanced to see her:
"Helene, I have a word to say to you," and he would lead her aside, drawing her hand downward. "I have heard of certain projects concerning... you know. Well my dear child, you know how your father's heart rejoices to know that you... You have suffered so much.... But, my dear child, consult only your own heart. That is all I have to say," and concealing his unvarying emotion he would press his cheek against his daughter's and move away.
Bilibin, who had not lost his reputation of an exceedingly clever man, and who was one of the disinterested friends so brilliant a woman as Helene always has--men friends who can never change into lovers--once gave her his view of the matter at a small and intimate gathering.
"Listen, Bilibin," said Helene (she always called friends of that sort by their surnames), and she touched his coat sleeve with her white, beringed fingers. "Tell me, as you would a sister, what I ought to do. Which of the two?"
Bilibin wrinkled up the skin over his eyebrows and pondered, with a smile on his lips.
"You are not taking me unawares, you know," said he. "As a true friend, I have thought and thought again about your affair. You see, if you marry the prince"--he meant the younger man--and he crooked one finger, "you forever lose the chance of marrying the other, and you will displease the court besides. (You know there is some kind of connection.) But if you marry the old count you will make his last days happy, and as widow of the Grand... the prince would no longer be making a mesalliance by marrying you," and Bilibin smoothed out his forehead.
"That's a true friend!" said Helene beaming, and again touching Bilibin's sleeve. "But I love them, you know, and don't want to distress either of them. I would give my life for the happiness of them both."
Bilibin shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say that not even he could help in that difficulty.
"Une maitresse-femme!* That's what is called putting things squarely. She would like to be married to all three at the same time," thought he.
*A masterly woman.
"But tell me, how will your husband look at the matter?" Bilibin asked, his reputation being so well established that he did not fear to ask so naive a question. "Will he agree?"
"Oh, he loves me so!" said Helene, who for some reason imagined that Pierre too loved her. "He will do anything for me."
Bilibin puckered his skin in preparation for something witty.
"Even divorce you?" said he.
Among those who ventured to doubt the justifiability of the proposed marriage was Helene's mother, Princess Kuragina. She was continually tormented by jealousy of her daughter, and now that jealousy concerned a subject near to her own heart, she could not reconcile herself to the idea. She consulted a Russian priest as to the possibility of divorce and remarriage during a husband's lifetime, and the priest told her that it was impossible, and to her delight showed her a text in the Gospel which (as it seemed to him) plainly remarriage while the husband is alive.
Armed with these arguments, which appeared to her unanswerable, she drove to her daughter's early one morning so as to find her alone.
Having listened to her mother's objections, Helene smiled blandly and ironically.
"But it says plainly: 'Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced...'" said the old princess.
"Ah, Maman, ne dites pas de betises. Vous ne comprenez rein. Dans ma position j'ai des devoirs,"* said Helene changing from Russian, in which language she always felt that her case did not sound quite clear, into French which suited it better.
*"Oh, Mamma, don't talk nonsense! You don't understand anything. In my position I have obligations.
"But, my dear...."
"Oh, Mamma, how is it you don't understand that the Holy Father, who has the right to grant dispensations..."
Just then the lady companion who lived with Helene came in to announce that His Highness was in the ballroom and wished to see her.
"Non, dites-lui que je ne veux pas le voir, que je suis furieuse contre lui, parce qu'il m' a manque parole."*
*"No, tell him I don't wish to see him, I am furious with him for not keeping his word to me."
"Comtesse, a tout peche misericorde,"* said a fair-haired young man with a long face and nose, as he entered the room.
*"Countess, there is mercy for every sin."
The old princess rose respectfully and curtsied. The young man who had entered took no notice of her. The princess nodded to her daughter and sidled out of the room.
"Yes, she is right," thought the old princess, all her convictions dissipated by the appearance of His Highness. "She is right, but how is it that we in our irrecoverable youth did not know it? Yet it is so simple," she thought as she got into her carriage.
By the beginning of August Helene's affairs were clearly defined and she wrote a letter to her husband--who, as she imagined, loved her very much--informing him of her intention to marry N.N. and of her having embraced the one true faith, and asking him to carry out all the formalities necessary for a divorce, which would be explained to him by the bearer of the letter.
And so I pray God to have you, my friend, in His holy and powerful keeping--Your friend Helene.
This letter was brought to Pierre's house when he was on the field of Borodino.
Toward the end of the battle of Borodino, Pierre, having run down from Raevski's battery a second time, made his way through a gully to Knyazkovo with a crowd of soldiers, reached the dressing station, and seeing blood and hearing cries and groans hurried on, still entangled in the crowds of soldiers.
The one thing he now desired with his whole soul was to get away quickly from the terrible sensations amid which he had lived that day and return to ordinary conditions of life and sleep quietly in a room in his own bed. He felt that only in the ordinary conditions of life would he be able to understand himself and all he had seen and felt. But such ordinary conditions of life were nowhere to be found.
Though shells and bullets did not whistle over the road along which he was going, still on all sides there was what there had been on the field of battle. There were still the same suffering, exhausted, and sometimes strangely indifferent faces, the same blood, the same soldiers' overcoats, the same sounds of firing which, though distant now, still aroused terror, and besides this there were the foul air and the dust.
Having gone a couple of miles along the Mozhaysk road, Pierre sat down by the roadside.
Dusk had fallen, and the roar of guns died away. Pierre lay leaning on his elbow for a long time, gazing at the shadows that moved past him in the darkness. He was continually imagining that a cannon ball was flying toward him with a terrific whizz, and then he shuddered and sat up. He had no idea how long he had been there. In the middle of the night three soldiers, having brought some firewood, settled down near him and began lighting a fire.
The soldiers, who threw sidelong glances at Pierre, got the fire to burn and placed an iron pot on it into which they broke some dried bread and put a little dripping. The pleasant odor of greasy viands mingled with the smell of smoke. Pierre sat up and sighed. The three soldiers were eating and talking among themselves, taking no notice of him.
"And who may you be?" one of them suddenly asked Pierre, evidently meaning what Pierre himself had in mind, namely: "If you want to eat we'll give you some food, only let us know whether you are an honest man."
"I, I..." said Pierre, feeling it necessary to minimize his social position as much as possible so as to be nearer to the soldiers and better understood by them. "By rights I am a militia officer, but my men are not here. I came to the battle and have lost them."
"There now!" said one of the soldiers.
Another shook his head.
"Would you like a little mash?" the first soldier asked, and handed Pierre a wooden spoon after licking it clean.
Pierre sat down by the fire and began eating the mash, as they called the food in the cauldron, and he thought it more delicious than any food he had ever tasted. As he sat bending greedily over it, helping himself to large spoonfuls and chewing one after another, his was lit up by the fire and the soldiers looked at him in silence.
"Where have you to go to? Tell us!" said one of them.
"You're a gentleman, aren't you?"
"And what's your name?"
"Well then, Peter Kirilych, come along with us, we'll take you there."
In the total darkness the soldiers walked with Pierre to Mozhaysk.
By the time they got near Mozhaysk and began ascending the steep hill into the town, the cocks were already crowing. Pierre went on with the soldiers, quite forgetting that his inn was at the bottom of the hill and that he had already passed it. He would not soon have remembered this, such was his state of forgetfulness, had he not halfway up the hill stumbled upon his groom, who had been to look for him in the town and was returning to the inn. The groom recognized Pierre in the darkness by his white hat.
"Your excellency!" he said. "Why, we were beginning to despair! How is it you are on foot? And where are you going, please?"
"Oh, yes!" said Pierre.
The soldiers stopped.
"So you've found your folk?" said one of them. "Well, good-by, Peter Kirilych--isn't it?"
"Good-by, Peter Kirilych!" Pierre heard the other voices repeat.
"Good-by!" he said and turned with his groom toward the inn.
"I ought to give them something!" he thought, and felt in his pocket. "No, better not!" said another, inner voice.
There was not a room to be had at the inn, they were all occupied. Pierre went out into the yard and, covering himself up head and all, lay down in his carriage.
Scarcely had Pierre laid his head on the pillow before he felt himself falling asleep, but suddenly, almost with the distinctness of reality, he heard the boom, boom, boom of firing, the thud of projectiles, groans and cries, and smelled blood and powder, and a feeling of horror and dread of death seized him. Filled with fright he opened his eyes and lifted his head from under his cloak. All was tranquil in the yard. Only someone's orderly passed through the gateway, splashing through the mud, and talked to the innkeeper. Above Pierre's head some pigeons, disturbed by the movement he had made in sitting up, fluttered under the dark roof of the penthouse. The whole courtyard was permeated by a strong peaceful smell of stable yards, delightful to Pierre at that moment. He could see the clear starry sky between the dark roofs of two penthouses.
"Thank God, there is no more of that!" he thought, covering up his head again. "Oh, what a terrible thing is fear, and how shamefully I yielded to it! But they... they were steady and calm all the time, to the end..." thought he.
They, in Pierre's mind, were the soldiers, those who had been at the battery, those who had given him food, and those who had prayed before the icon. They, those strange men he had not previously known, stood out clearly and sharply from everyone else.
"To be a soldier, just a soldier!" thought Pierre as he fell asleep, "to enter communal life completely, to be imbued by what makes them what they are. But how cast off all the superfluous, devilish burden of my outer man? There was a time when I could have done it. I could have run away from my father, as I wanted to. Or I might have been sent to serve as a soldier after the duel with Dolokhov." And the memory of the dinner at the English Club when he had challenged Dolokhov flashed through Pierre's mind, and then he remembered his benefactor at Torzhok. And now a picture of a solemn meeting of the lodge presented itself to his mind. It was taking place at the English Club and someone near and dear to him sat at the end of the table. "Yes, that is he! It is my benefactor. But he died!" thought Pierre. "Yes, he died, and I did not know he was alive. How sorry I am that he died, and how glad I am that he is alive again!" On one side of the table sat Anatole, Dolokhov, Nesvitski, Denisov, and others like them (in his dream the category to which these men belonged was as clearly defined in his mind as the category of those he termed they), and he heard those people, Anatole and Dolokhov, shouting and singing loudly; yet through their shouting the voice of his benefactor was heard speaking all the time and the sound of his words was as weighty and uninterrupted as the booming on the battlefield, but pleasant and comforting. Pierre did not understand what his benefactor was saying, but he knew (the categories of thoughts were also quite distinct in his dream) that he was talking of goodness and the possibility of being what they were. And they with their simple, kind, firm faces surrounded his benefactor on all sides. But though they were kindly they did not look at Pierre and did not know him. Wishing to speak and to attract their attention, he got up, but at that moment his legs grew cold and bare.
He felt ashamed, and with one arm covered his legs from which his cloak had in fact slipped. For a moment as he was rearranging his cloak Pierre opened his eyes and saw the same penthouse roofs, posts, and yard, but now they were all bluish, lit up, and glittering with frost or dew.
"It is dawn," thought Pierre. "But that's not what I want. I want to hear and understand my benefactor's words." Again he covered himself up with his cloak, but now neither the lodge nor his benefactor was there. There were only thoughts clearly expressed in words, thoughts that someone was uttering or that he himself was formulating.
Afterwards when he recalled those thoughts Pierre was convinced that someone outside himself had spoken them, though the impressions of that day had evoked them. He had never, it seemed to him, been able to think and express his thoughts like that when awake.
"To endure war is the most difficult subordination of man's freedom to the law of God," the voice had said. "Simplicity is submission to the will of God; you cannot escape from Him. And they are simple. They do not talk, but act. The spoken word is silver but the unspoken is golden. Man can be master of nothing while he fears death, but he who does not fear it possesses all. If there were no suffering, man would not know his limitations, would not know himself. The hardest thing [Pierre went on thinking, or hearing, in his dream] is to be able in your soul to unite the meaning of all. To unite all?" he asked himself. "No, not to unite. Thoughts cannot be united, but to harness all these thoughts together is what we need! Yes, one must harness them, must harness them!" he repeated to himself with inward rapture, feeling that these words and they alone expressed what he wanted to say and solved the question that tormented him.
"Yes, one must harness, it is time to harness."
"Time to harness, time to harness, your excellency! Your excellency!" some voice was repeating. "We must harness, it is time to harness...."
It was the voice of the groom, trying to wake him. The sun shone straight into Pierre's face. He glanced at the dirty innyard in the middle of which soldiers were watering their lean horses at the pump while carts were passing out of the gate. Pierre turned away with repugnance, and closing his eyes quickly fell back on the carriage seat. "No, I don't want that, I don't want to see and understand that. I want to understand what was revealing itself to me in my dream. One second more and I should have understood it all! But what am I to do? Harness, but how can I harness everything?" and Pierre felt with horror that the meaning of all he had seen and thought in the dream had been destroyed.
The groom, the coachman, and the innkeeper told Pierre that an officer had come with news that the French were already near Mozhaysk and that our men were leaving it.
Pierre got up and, having told them to harness and overtake him, went on foot through the town.
The troops were moving on, leaving about ten thousand wounded behind them. There were wounded in the yards, at the windows of the houses, and the streets were crowded with them. In the streets, around carts that were to take some of the wounded away, shouts, curses, and blows could be heard. Pierre offered the use of his carriage, which had overtaken him, to a wounded general he knew, and drove with him to Moscow. On the way Pierre was told of the death of his brother-in-law Anatole and of that of Prince Andrew.
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?"
"Oh, well, you know people often invent things. I only say what I heard."
"But what did you hear?"
"Well, they say," continued the adjutant with the same smile, "that the countess, your wife, is preparing to go abroad. I expect it's nonsense...."
"Possibly," remarked Pierre, looking about him absent-mindedly. "And who is that?" he asked, indicating a short old man in a clean blue peasant overcoat, with a big snow-white beard and eyebrows and a ruddy face.
"He? That's a tradesman, that is to say, he's the restaurant keeper, Vereshchagin. Perhaps you have heard of that affair with the proclamation."
"Oh, so that is Vereshchagin!" said Pierre, looking at the firm, calm face of the old man and seeking any indication of his being a traitor.
"That's not he himself, that's the father of the fellow who wrote the proclamation," said the adjutant. "The young man is in prison and I expect it will go hard with him."
An old gentleman wearing a star and another official, a German wearing a cross round his neck, approached the speaker.
"It's a complicated story, you know," said the adjutant. "That proclamation appeared about two months ago. The count was informed of it. He gave orders to investigate the matter. Gabriel Ivanovich here made the inquiries. The proclamation had passed through exactly sixty-three hands. He asked one, 'From whom did you get it?' 'From so-and-so.' He went to the next one. 'From whom did you get it?' and so on till he reached Vereshchagin, a half educated tradesman, you know, 'a pet of a trader,'" said the adjutant smiling. "They asked him, 'Who gave it you?' And the point is that we knew whom he had it from. He could only have had it from the Postmaster. But evidently they had come to some understanding. He replied: 'From no one; I made it up myself.' They threatened and questioned him, but he stuck to that: 'I made it up myself.' And so it was reported to the count, who sent for the man. 'From whom did you get the proclamation?' 'I wrote it myself.' Well, you know the count," said the adjutant cheerfully, with a smile of pride, "he flared up dreadfully--and just think of the fellow's audacity, lying, and obstinacy!"
"And the count wanted him to say it was from Klyucharev? I understand!" said Pierre.
"Not at all," rejoined the adjutant in dismay. "Klyucharev had his own sins to answer for without that and that is why he has been banished. But the point is that the count was much annoyed. 'How could you have written it yourself?' said he, and he took up the Hamburg Gazette that was lying on the table. 'Here it is! You did not write it yourself but translated it, and translated it abominably, because you don't even know French, you fool.' And what do you think? 'No,' said he, 'I have not read any papers, I made it up myself.' 'If that's so, you're a traitor and I'll have you tried, and you'll be hanged! Say from whom you had it.' 'I have seen no papers, I made it up myself.' And that was the end of it. The count had the father fetched, but the fellow stuck to it. He was sent for trial and condemned to hard labor, I believe. Now the father has come to intercede for him. But he's a good-for-nothing lad! You know that sort of tradesman's son, a dandy and lady-killer. He attended some lectures somewhere and imagines that the devil is no match for him. That's the sort of fellow he is. His father keeps a cookshop here by the Stone Bridge, and you know there was a large icon of God Almighty painted with a scepter in one hand and an orb in the other. Well, he took that icon home with him for a few days and what did he do? He found some scoundrel of a painter..."