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- War and Peace - 250/336 -


himself in this way, the study door opened and on the threshold appeared the figure of Makar Alexeevich, always so timid before but now quite transformed.

His dressing gown was unfastened, his face red and distorted. He was obviously drunk. On seeing Pierre he grew confused at first, but noticing embarrassment on Pierre's face immediately grew bold and, staggering on his thin legs, advanced into the middle of the room.

"They're frightened," he said confidentially in a hoarse voice. "I say I won't surrender, I say... Am I not right, sir?"

He paused and then suddenly seeing the pistol on the table seized it with unexpected rapidity and ran out into the corridor.

Gerasim and the porter, who had followed Makar Alexeevich, stopped him in the vestibule and tried to take the pistol from him. Pierre, coming out into the corridor, looked with pity and repulsion at the half-crazy old man. Makar Alexeevich, frowning with exertion, held on to the pistol and screamed hoarsely, evidently with some heroic fancy in his head.

"To arms! Board them! No, you shan't get it," he yelled.

"That will do, please, that will do. Have the goodness--please, sir, to let go! Please, sir..." pleaded Gerasim, trying carefully to steer Makar Alexeevich by the elbows back to the door.

"Who are you? Bonaparte!..." shouted Makar Alexeevich.

"That's not right, sir. Come to your room, please, and rest. Allow me to have the pistol."

"Be off, thou base slave! Touch me not! See this?" shouted Makar Alexeevich, brandishing the pistol. "Board them!"

"Catch hold!" whispered Gerasim to the porter.

They seized Makar Alexeevich by the arms and dragged him to the door.

The vestibule was filled with the discordant sounds of a struggle and of a tipsy, hoarse voice.

Suddenly a fresh sound, a piercing feminine scream, reverberated from the porch and the cook came running into the vestibule.

"It's them! Gracious heavens! O Lord, four of them, horsemen!" she cried.

Gerasim and the porter let Makar Alexeevich go, and in the now silent corridor the sound of several hands knocking at the front door could be heard.

CHAPTER XXVIII

Pierre, having decided that until he had carried out his design he would disclose neither his identity nor his knowledge of French, stood at the half-open door of the corridor, intending to conceal himself as soon as the French entered. But the French entered and still Pierre did not retire--an irresistible curiosity kept him there.

There were two of them. One was an officer--a tall, soldierly, handsome man--the other evidently a private or an orderly, sunburned, short, and thin, with sunken cheeks and a dull expression. The officer walked in front, leaning on a stick and slightly limping. When he had advanced a few steps he stopped, having apparently decided that these were good quarters, turned round to the soldiers standing at the entrance, and in a loud voice of command ordered them to put up the horses. Having done that, the officer, lifting his elbow with a smart gesture, stroked his mustache and lightly touched his hat.

"Bonjour, la compagnie!"* said he gaily, smiling and looking about him.

*"Good day, everybody!"

No one gave any reply.

"Vous etes le bourgeois?"* the officer asked Gerasim.

*"Are you the master here?"

Gerasim gazed at the officer with an alarmed and inquiring look.

"Quartier, quartier, logement!" said the officer, looking down at the little man with a condescending and good-natured smile. "Les francais sont de bons enfants. Que diable! Voyons! Ne nous fachons pas, mon vieux!"* added he, clapping the scared and silent Gerasim on the shoulder. "Well, does no one speak French in this establishment?" he asked again in French, looking around and meeting Pierre's eyes. Pierre moved away from the door.

*"Quarters, quarters, lodgings! The French are good fellows. What the devil! There, don't let us be cross, old fellow!"

Again the officer turned to Gerasim and asked him to show him the rooms in the house.

"Master, not here--don't understand... me, you..." said Gerasim, trying to render his words more comprehensible by contorting them.

Still smiling, the French officer spread out his hands before Gerasim's nose, intimating that he did not understand him either, and moved, limping, to the door at which Pierre was standing. Pierre wished to go away and conceal himself, but at that moment he saw Makar Alexeevich appearing at the open kitchen door with the pistol in his hand. With a madman's cunning, Makar Alexeevich eyed the Frenchman, raised his pistol, and took aim.

"Board them!" yelled the tipsy man, trying to press the trigger. Hearing the yell the officer turned round, and at the same moment Pierre threw himself on the drunkard. Just when Pierre snatched at and struck up the pistol Makar Alexeevich at last got his fingers on the trigger, there was a deafening report, and all were enveloped in a cloud of smoke. The Frenchman turned pale and rushed to the door.

Forgetting his intention of concealing his knowledge of French, Pierre, snatching away the pistol and throwing it down, ran up to the officer and addressed him in French.

"You are not wounded?" he asked.

"I think not," answered the Frenchman, feeling himself over. "But I have had a lucky escape this time," he added, pointing to the damaged plaster of the wall. "Who is that man?" said he, looking sternly at Pierre.

"Oh, I am really in despair at what has occurred," said Pierre rapidly, quite forgetting the part he had intended to play. "He is an unfortunate madman who did not know what he was doing."

The officer went up to Makar Alexeevich and took him by the collar.

Makar Alexeevich was standing with parted lips, swaying, as if about to fall asleep, as he leaned against the wall.

"Brigand! You shall pay for this," said the Frenchman, letting go of him. "We French are merciful after victory, but we do not pardon traitors," he added, with a look of gloomy dignity and a fine energetic gesture.

Pierre continued, in French, to persuade the officer not to hold that drunken imbecile to account. The Frenchman listened in silence with the same gloomy expression, but suddenly turned to Pierre with a smile. For a few seconds he looked at him in silence. His handsome face assumed a melodramatically gentle expression and he held out his hand.

"You have saved my life. You are French," said he.

For a Frenchman that deduction was indubitable. Only a Frenchman could perform a great deed, and to save his life--the life of M. Ramballe, captain of the 13th Light Regiment--was undoubtedly a very great deed.

But however indubitable that conclusion and the officer's conviction based upon it, Pierre felt it necessary to disillusion him.

"I am Russian," he said quickly.

"Tut, tut, tut! Tell that to others," said the officer, waving his finger before his nose and smiling. "You shall tell me all about that presently. I am delighted to meet a compatriot. Well, and what are we to do with this man?" he added, addressing himself to Pierre as to a brother.

Even if Pierre were not a Frenchman, having once received that loftiest of human appellations he could not renounce it, said the officer's look and tone. In reply to his last question Pierre again explained who Makar Alexeevich was and how just before their arrival that drunken imbecile had seized the loaded pistol which they had not had time to recover from him, and begged the officer to let the deed go unpunished.

The Frenchman expanded his chest and made a majestic gesture with his arm.

"You have saved my life! You are French. You ask his pardon? I grant it you. Lead that man away!" said he quickly and energetically, and taking the arm of Pierre whom he had promoted to be a Frenchman for saving his life, he went with him into the room.

The soldiers in the yard, hearing the shot, came into the passage asking what had happened, and expressed their readiness to punish the culprits, but the officer sternly checked them.

"You will be called in when you are wanted," he said.


War and Peace - 250/336

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