War And Peace

CHAPTER XVIII

Chinese

FROM THE TIME of his disappearance, two days before, Pierre had been living in the empty abode of his dead benefactor, Osip Bazdyev. This was how it had come to pass.

On waking up the morning after his return to Moscow and his interview with Count Rastoptchin, Pierre could not for some time make out where he was and what was expected of him. When the names of the persons waiting to see him were announced to him—among them a Frenchman, who had brought a letter from his wife, the Countess Elena Vassilyevna—he felt suddenly overcome by that sense of the hopelessness and intricacy of his position to which he was particularly liable. He suddenly felt that everything was now at an end, everything was in a muddle, everything was breaking down, that no one was right nor wrong, that there was no future before him, and that there was no possible escape from the position. Smiling unnaturally and muttering to himself, he sat on the sofa in a pose expressive of utter hopelessness, or got up, approached the door, and peeped through the crack into the reception-room, where his visitors were awaiting him, then turned back with a gesture of despair and took up a book. The butler came in for the second time with a message that the Frenchman who had brought the letter from the countess was very desirous of seeing him if only for a minute, and that they had sent from the widow of Osip Alexyevitch Bazdyev to ask him to take charge of some books, as Madame Bazdyev was going away into the country.

“Oh, yes, in a minute; wait … No, no; go and say, I am coming immediately,” said Pierre.

As soon as the butler had left the room, Pierre had taken up his hat, which was lying on the table, and gone out by the other door. He found no one in the corridor. Pierre walked the whole length of the corridor to the staircase, and frowning and rubbing his forehead with both hands, he went down as far as the first story landing. The porter was standing at the front door. A second staircase led from the landing to the back entrance. Pierre went down the back stairs and out into the yard. No one had seen him. But as soon as he turned out at the gates into the street, the coachman, standing by the carriages, and the gate-porter saw him and took off their caps to him. Aware of their eyes fixed on him, Pierre did, as the ostrich does, hiding its head in a bush to escape being seen; ducking his head and quickening his pace he hurried along the street.

Of all the business awaiting Pierre that morning, the task of sorting the books and papers of Osip Alexyevitch seemed to him the most urgent.

He hailed the first cab-driver he came across, and told him to drive to Patriarch's Ponds, where was the house of the widow of Bazdyev.

Continually watching the loaded vehicles moving out of Moscow from all directions, and balancing his bulky person carefully not to slip out of the rickety old chaise, Pierre had the happy sensation of a run-away schoolboy, as he chatted with his driver.

The latter told him that to-day arms were being given out in the Kremlin, and that next day every one would be driven out beyond the Three Hills Gate, and there there was to be a great battle.

On reaching the Patriarch's Ponds, Pierre looked for Bazdyev's house, where he had not been for a long while past. He went up to a little garden gate. Gerasim, the yellow, beardless old man Pierre had seen five years before at Torzhok with Osip Alexyevitch, came out on hearing him knock.

“At home?” asked Pierre.

“Owing to present circumstances, Sofya Danilovna and her children have gone away into the country, your excellency.”

“I'll come in, all the same; I want to look through the books,” said Pierre.

“Pray do, you are very welcome; the brother of my late master—the heavenly kingdom be his!—Makar Alexyevitch has remained, but your honour is aware he is in feeble health,” said the old servant.

Makar Alexyevitch was, as Pierre knew, a brother of Osip Alexyevitch, a half-mad creature, besotted by drink.

“Yes, yes, I know. Let us go in,” said Pierre, and he went into the house. A tall, bald old man in a dressing-gown, with a red nose and goloshes on his bare feet, was standing in the vestibule; seeing Pierre, he muttered something angrily, and walked away into the corridor.

“He was a great intellect, but now, as your honour can see, he has grown feeble,” said Gerasim. “Will you like to go into the study?” Pierre nodded. “As it was sealed up, so it has remained. Sofya Danilovna gave orders that if you sent for the books they were to be handed over.”

Pierre went into the gloomy study, which he had entered with such trepidation in the lifetime of his benefactor. Now covered with dust, and untouched since the death of Osip Alexyevitch, the room was gloomier than ever.

Gerasim opened one blind, and went out of the room on tiptoe. Pierre walked round the study, went up to the bookcase, where the manuscripts were kept, and took one of the most important, at one time a sacred relic of the order. This consisted of the long Scottish acts of the order, with Bazdyev's notes and commentaries. He sat down to the dusty writing-table and laid the manuscripts down before him, opened and closed them, and at last, pushing them away, sank into thought, with his elbow on the table and his head in his hand.

Several times Gerasim peeped cautiously into the study and saw that Pierre was sitting in the same attitude.

More than two hours passed by, Gerasim ventured to make a slight noise at the door to attract Pierre's attention. Pierre did not hear him.

“Is the driver to be dismissed, your honour?”

“Oh yes,” said Pierre, waking up from his reverie, and hurriedly getting up. “Listen,” he said, taking Gerasim by the button of his coat and looking down at the old man with moist, shining, eager eyes. “Listen! You know that to-morrow there is to be a battle …”

“They have been saying so …” answered Gerasim.

“I beg you not to tell any one who I am. And do what I tell you..”

“Certainly, sir,” said Gerasim. “Would your honour like something to eat?”

“No, but I want something else. I want a peasant dress and a pistol,” said Pierre, suddenly flushing red.

“Certainly, sir,” said Gerasim, after a moment's thought.

All the rest of that day Pierre spent alone in his benefactor's study pacing restlessly from one corner to the other, as Gerasim could hear, and talking to himself; and he spent the night on a bed made up for him there.

Gerasim accepted Pierre's taking up his abode there with the imperturbability of a servant, who had seen many queer things in his time, and he seemed, indeed, pleased at having some one to wait upon. Without even permitting himself to wonder with what object it was wanted, he obtained for Pierre that evening a coachman's coat and cap, and promised next day to procure the pistol he required. Makar Alexyevitch twice that evening approached the door, shuffling in his goloshes, and stood there, gazing with an ingratiating air at Pierre. But as soon as Pierre turned to him, he wrapped his dressing-gown round him with a shamefaced and wrathful look, and hastily retreated. Pierre put on the coachman's coat, procured and carefully fumigated for him by Gerasim, and went out with the latter to buy a pistol at the Suharev Tower. It was there he had met the Rostovs.

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