War And Peace



WHEN PIERRE, after running across courtyards and by-lanes, got back with his burden to Prince Gruzinsky's garden, at the corner of Povarsky, he did not for the first moment recognise the place from which he had set out to look for the baby: it was so packed with people and goods, dragged out of the houses. Besides the Russian families with their belongings saved from the fire, there were a good many French soldiers here too in various uniforms. Pierre took no notice of them. He was in haste to find the family, and to restore the child to its mother, so as to be able to go back and save some one else. It seemed to Pierre that he had a great deal more to do, and to do quickly. Warmed up by the heat and running, Pierre felt even more strongly at that minute the sense of youth, eagerness, and resolution, which had come upon him when he was running to save the baby.

The child was quiet now, and clinging to Pierre's coat with her little hands, she sat on his arm, and looked about her like a little wild beast. Pierre glanced at her now and then, and smiled slightly. He fancied he saw something touchingly innocent in the frightened, sickly little face.

Neither the official nor his wife were in the place where he had left them. With rapid steps, Pierre walked about among the crowd, scanning the different faces he came across. He could not help noticing a Georgian or Armenian family, consisting of a very old man, of a handsome Oriental cast of face, dressed in a new cloth-faced sheepskin and new boots; an old woman of a similar type; and a young woman. The latter—a very young woman—struck Pierre as a perfect example of Oriental beauty, with her sharply marked, arched, black eyebrows, her extraordinarily soft, bright colour and beautiful, expressionless, oval face. Among the goods flung down in the crowd in the grass space, in her rich satin mantle, and the bright lilac kerchief on her head, she suggested a tender, tropical plant, thrown down in the snow. She was sitting on the baggage a little behind the old woman, and her big, black, long-shaped eyes, with their long lashes, were fixed immovably on the ground. Evidently she was aware of her beauty, and fearful because of it. Her face struck Pierre, and in his haste he looked round at her several times as he passed along by the fence. Reaching the fence, and still failing to find the people he was looking for, Pierre stood still and looked round.

Pierre's figure was more remarkable than ever now with the baby in his arms, and several Russians, both men and women, gathered about him.

“Have you lost some one, good sir? Are you a gentleman yourself, or what? Whose baby is it?” they asked him.

Pierre answered that the baby belonged to a woman in a black mantle, who had been sitting at this spot with her children; and asked whether any one knew her, and where she had gone.

“Why, it must be the Anferovs,” said an old deacon addressing a pock-marked peasant woman. “Lord, have mercy on us! Lord, have mercy on us!” he added, in his professional bass.

“The Anferovs,” said the woman. “Why, the Anferovs have been gone since early this morning. It will either be Marya Nikolaevna's or Ivanova's.”

“He says a woman, and Marya Nikolaevna's a lady,” said a house-serf.

“You know her, then; a thin woman—long teeth,” said Pierre.

“To be sure, Marya Nikolaevna. They moved off into the garden as soon as these wolves pounced down on us,” said the woman, indicating the French soldiers.

“O Lord, have mercy on us!” the deacon added again.

“You go on yonder, they are there. It's she, for sure. She was quite beside herself with crying,” said the woman again. “It's she. Here this way.”

But Pierre was not heeding the woman. For several seconds he had been gazing intently at what was passing a few paces from him. He was looking at the Armenian family and two French soldiers, who had approached them. One of these soldiers, a nimble, little man, was dressed in a blue coat, with a cord tied round for a belt. He had a night-cap on his head, and his feet were bare. Another, whose appearance struck Pierre particularly, was a long, round-shouldered, fair-haired, thin man, with ponderous movements and an idiotic expression of face. He was dressed in a frieze tunic, blue trousers and big, torn, high boots. The little bare-footed Frenchman in the blue coat, on going up to the Armenians, said something, and at once took hold of the old man's legs, and the old man began immediately in haste pulling off his boots. The other soldier in the tunic stopped facing the beautiful Armenian girl, with his hands in his pockets, and stared at her without speaking or moving.

“Take it, take the child,” said Pierre, handing the child to the peasant woman, and speaking with peremptory haste. “You give her to them, you take her,” he almost shouted to the woman, setting the screaming child on the ground, and looking round again at the Frenchmen and the Armenian family. The old man was by now sitting barefoot. The little Frenchman had just taken the second boot from him, and was slapping the boots together. The old man was saying something with a sob, but all that Pierre only saw in a passing glimpse. His whole attention was absorbed by the Frenchman in the tunic, who had meanwhile, with a deliberate, swinging gait, moved up to the young woman, and taking his hands out of his pockets, caught hold of her neck.

The beautiful Armenian still sat in the same immobile pose, with her long lashes drooping, and seemed not to see and not to feel what the soldier was doing to her.

While Pierre ran the few steps that separated him from the Frenchman, the long soldier in the tunic had already torn the necklace from the Armenian beauty's neck, and the young woman, clutching at her neck with both hands, screamed shrilly.

“Let that woman alone!” Pierre roared in a voice hoarse with rage, and seizing the long, stooping soldier by the shoulders he shoved him away. The soldier fell down, got up, and ran away. His comrade, dropping the boots, pulled out his sword, and moved up to Pierre in a menacing attitude.

Voyons, pas de bêtises!” he shouted.

Pierre was in that transport of frenzy in which he remembered nothing, and his strength was increased tenfold. He dashed at the barefoot Frenchman, and before he had time to draw his cutlass, he knocked him down, and was pommelling him with his fists Shouts of approval were heard from the crowd around, and at the same time a patrol of French Uhlans came riding round the corner. The Uhlans trotted up to Pierre, and the French soldiers surrounded him. Pierre had no recollection of what followed. He remembered that he beat somebody, and was beaten, and that in the end he found that his hands were tied, that a group of French soldiers were standing round him, ransacking his clothes.

“Lieutenant, he has a dagger,” were the first words Pierre grasped the meaning of.

“Ah, a weapon,” said the officer, and he turned to the barefoot soldier, who had been taken with Pierre. “Very good, very good; you can tell all your story at the court-martial,” said the officer. And then he turned to Pierre: “Do you know French?”

Pierre looked about him with bloodshot eyes, and made no reply. Probably his face looked very terrible; for the officer said something in a whisper, and four more Uhlans left the rest, and stationed themselves both sides of Pierre.

“Do you speak French?” the officer, keeping his distance, repeated the question. “Call the interpreter.” From the ranks a little man came forward, in a Russian civilian dress. Pierre, from his dress and speech, at once recognised in him a French shopman from some Moscow shop.

“He doesn't look like a common man,” said the interpreter, scanning Pierre.

“Oh, oh, he looks very like an incendiary,” said the officer. “Ask him who he is,” he added.

“Who are you?” asked the interpreter in his Frenchified Russian. “You must answer the officer.”

“I will not say who I am. I am your prisoner. Take me away.” Pierre said suddenly in French.

“Ah! ah!” commented the officer, knitting his brows; “well, march then!”

A crowd had gathered around the Uhlans. Nearest of all to Pierre stood the pock-marked peasant woman with the child. When the patrol was moving, she stepped forward:

“Why, where are they taking you, my good soul?” she said. “The child! what am I to do with the child if it's not theirs?” she cried.

“What does she want, this woman?” asked the officer.

Pierre was like a drunken man. His excitement was increased at the sight of the little girl he had saved.

“What does she want?” he said. “She is carrying my daughter, whom I have just saved from the flames,” he declared. “Good-bye!” and utterly at a loss to explain to himself the aimless lie he had just blurted out, he strode along with a resolute and solemn step between the Frenchmen.

The patrol of Uhlans was one of those that had been sent out by Durosnel's orders through various streets of Moscow to put a stop to pillage, and still more to capture the incendiaries, who in the general opinion of the French officers in the higher ranks on that day were causing the fires. Patrolling several streets, the Uhlans arrested five more suspicious characters, a shopkeeper, two divinity students, a peasant, and a house-serf—all Russians—besides several French soldiers engaged in pillage. But of all these suspicious characters Pierre seemed to them the most suspicious of all.

When they had all been brought for the night to a big house on Zubovsky rampart, which had been fixed upon as a guardhouse, Pierre was put apart from the rest under strict guard.




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