War And Peace

CHAPTER XXIII

Chinese

AT THAT MOMENT Count Rastoptchin, with his prominent chin and alert eyes, strode in rapidly through the parting crowd, wearing the uniform of a general and a ribbon over his shoulder.

“Our sovereign the Emperor will be here immediately,” said Rastoptchin. “I have just come from him. I presume that in the position in which we are placed, there is no need of much discussion. The Emperor has graciously seen fit to summon us and the merchants,” said Count Rastoptchin. “They will pour out their millions” (he pointed to the merchants' hall); “it is our duty to raise men and not to spare ourselves.… It is the least we can do.”

A consultation took place between the great noblemen at the table only. The whole consultation was more than subdued, it seemed ever mournful, when, after all the hubbub that had gone before, the old voices could be heard, one at a time, saying “agreed,” or for the sake of variety, “I am of the same opinion.”

The secretary was told to write down the resolution of the Moscow nobility: that the nobles of Moscow, like those of Smolensk, would furnish a levy of ten men in every thousand, with their complete equipment.

The gentlemen, who had been sitting, got up with an air of relief; there was a scraping of chairs and the great noblemen walked about to stretch their legs, taking their friends' arms and chatting together.

“The Tsar! the Tsar!” was suddenly heard all through the rooms, and the whole crowd rushed towards the entrance.

The Tsar walked in along the wide, free space left for him, between walls of noblemen close packed on each side. Every face expressed reverent and awe-stricken curiosity. Pierre was at some distance, and could not quite catch all the Tsar said. He knew from what he did hear that the Tsar was speaking of the danger in which the empire was placed, and the hopes he rested on the Moscow nobility. The Tsar was answered by a voice informing him of the resolution just passed by the nobility.

“Gentlemen!” said the trembling voice of the Tsar. A stir passed through the crowd, and then a hush fell on it again, and Pierre distinctly heard the voice of the Tsar, warmly humane and deeply touched: “I have never doubted of the devotion of the Russian nobility. But this day it has surpassed my expectations. I thank you in the name of the fatherland. Gentlemen, let us act—time is more precious than anything.…”

The Tsar ceased speaking; the crowd began pressing round him, and cries of enthusiasm were heard on all sides.

“Yes, more precious than anything…a royal saying,” said the voice of Ilya Andreitch with a sob. He had heard nothing, but understood everything in his own way.

From the nobility's room the Tsar went into the merchants' room. He was there for about ten minutes. Pierre amongst the rest saw the Tsar coming back from the merchants' room with tears of emotion in his eyes. They learned afterwards that the Tsar had hardly begun to speak to the merchants when the tears gushed from his eyes and he continued in a trembling voice. When Pierre saw the Tsar come out, he was accompanied by two merchants. One of them Pierre knew, a stout contractor; the other was the mayor, with a thin, yellow face and narrow beard. Both were weeping. The tears stood in the thin man's eyes, but the stout contractor was sobbing like a child and continually repeating:

“Take life and property too, your majesty!”

Pierre felt nothing at that moment but the desire to show that nothing was too much for him and that he was ready to sacrifice everything. The constitutional tenor of his speech weighed on him like a sin; he sought an opportunity of glossing it over. On hearing that Count Mamonov was furnishing a regiment, Bezuhov at once told Count Rastoptchin that he would furnish one thousand men and their equipment.

Old Rostov could not tell his wife what had passed without tears, and he agreed at once to Petya's wishes, and went himself to enter his name.

Next day the Tsar went away. All the assembled noblemen went back to their homes and their clubs, took off their uniforms, and with some groans gave orders to their stewards to raise the levy, wondering themselves at what they had done.

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