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Chapter 16

  • Berg, the Rostovs' son-in-law, was already a colonel wearing the orders o_ladimir and Anna, and he still filled the quiet and agreeable post o_ssistant to the head of the staff of the assistant commander of the firs_ivision of the Second Army.
  • On the first of September he had come to Moscow from the army.
  • He had nothing to do in Moscow, but he had noticed that everyone in the arm_as asking for leave to visit Moscow and had something to do there. So h_onsidered it necessary to ask for leave of absence for family and domesti_easons.
  • Berg drove up to his father-in-law's house in his spruce little trap with _air of sleek roans, exactly like those of a certain prince. He looke_ttentively at the carts in the yard and while going up to the porch took ou_ clean pocket handkerchief and tied a knot in it.
  • From the anteroom Berg ran with smooth though impatient steps into the drawin_oom, where he embraced the count, kissed the hands of Natasha and Sonya, an_astened to inquire after "Mamma's" health.
  • "Health, at a time like this?" said the count. "Come, tell us the news! Is th_rmy retreating or will there be another battle?"
  • "God Almighty alone can decide the fate of our fatherland, Papa," said Berg.
  • "The army is burning with a spirit of heroism and the leaders, so to say, hav_ow assembled in council. No one knows what is coming. But in general I ca_ell you, Papa, that such a heroic spirit, the truly antique valor of th_ussian army, which they—which it" (he corrected himself) "has shown o_isplayed in the battle of the twenty-sixth—there are no words worthy to do i_ustice! I tell you, Papa" (he smote himself on the breast as a general he ha_eard speaking had done, but Berg did it a trifle late for he should hav_truck his breast at the words "Russian army"), "I tell you frankly that we, the commanders, far from having to urge the men on or anything of that kind, could hardly restrain those… those… yes, those exploits of antique valor," h_ent on rapidly. "General Barclay de Tolly risked his life everywhere at th_ead of the troops, I can assure you. Our corps was stationed on a hillside.
  • You can imagine!"
  • And Berg related all that he remembered of the various tales he had hear_hose days. Natasha watched him with an intent gaze that confused him, as i_he were trying to find in his face the answer to some question.
  • "Altogether such heroism as was displayed by the Russian warriors cannot b_magined or adequately praised!" said Berg, glancing round at Natasha, and a_f anxious to conciliate her, replying to her intent look with a smile.
  • "'Russia is not in Moscow, she lives in the hearts of her sons!' Isn't it so, Papa?" said he.
  • Just then the countess came in from the sitting room with a weary an_issatisfied expression. Berg hurriedly jumped up, kissed her hand, aske_bout her health, and, swaying his head from side to side to express sympathy, remained standing beside her.
  • "Yes, Mamma, I tell you sincerely that these are hard and sad times for ever_ussian. But why are you so anxious? You have still time to get away… ."
  • "I can't think what the servants are about," said the countess, turning to he_usband. "I have just been told that nothing is ready yet. Somebody after al_ust see to things. One misses Mitenka at such times. There won't be any en_o it."
  • The count was about to say something, but evidently restrained himself. He go_p from his chair and went to the door.
  • At that moment Berg drew out his handkerchief as if to blow his nose and, seeing the knot in it, pondered, shaking his head sadly and significantly.
  • "And I have a great favor to ask of you, Papa," said he.
  • "Hm… " said the count, and stopped.
  • "I was driving past Yusupov's house just now," said Berg with a laugh, "whe_he steward, a man I know, ran out and asked me whether I wouldn't bu_omething. I went in out of curiosity, you know, and there is a smal_hiffonier and a dressing table. You know how dear Vera wanted a chiffonie_ike that and how we had a dispute about it." (At the mention of th_hiffonier and dressing table Berg involuntarily changed his tone to one o_leasure at his admirable domestic arrangements.) "And it's such a beauty! I_ulls out and has a secret English drawer, you know! And dear Vera has lon_anted one. I wish to give her a surprise, you see. I saw so many of thos_easant carts in your yard. Please let me have one, I will pay the man well, and… "
  • The count frowned and coughed.
  • "Ask the countess, I don't give orders."
  • "If it's inconvenient, please don't," said Berg. "Only I so wanted it, fo_ear Vera's sake."
  • "Oh, go to the devil, all of you! To the devil, the devil, the devil… " crie_he old count. "My head's in a whirl!"
  • And he left the room. The countess began to cry.
  • "Yes, Mamma! Yes, these are very hard times!" said Berg.
  • Natasha left the room with her father and, as if finding it difficult to reac_ome decision, first followed him and then ran downstairs.
  • Petya was in the porch, engaged in giving out weapons to the servants who wer_o leave Moscow. The loaded carts were still standing in the yard. Two of the_ad been uncorded and a wounded officer was climbing into one of them helpe_y an orderly.
  • "Do you know what it's about?" Petya asked Natasha.
  • She understood that he meant what were their parents quarreling about. She di_ot answer.
  • "It's because Papa wanted to give up all the carts to the wounded," sai_etya. "Vasilich told me. I consider… "
  • "I consider," Natasha suddenly almost shouted, turning her angry face t_etya, "I consider it so horrid, so abominable, so… I don't know what. Are w_espicable Germans?"
  • Her throat quivered with convulsive sobs and, afraid of weakening and lettin_he force of her anger run to waste, she turned and rushed headlong up th_tairs.
  • Berg was sitting beside the countess consoling her with the respectfu_ttention of a relative. The count, pipe in hand, was pacing up and down th_oom, when Natasha, her face distorted by anger, burst in like a tempest an_pproached her mother with rapid steps.
  • "It's horrid! It's abominable!" she screamed. "You can't possibly have ordere_t!"
  • Berg and the countess looked at her, perplexed and frightened. The count stoo_till at the window and listened.
  • "Mamma, it's impossible: see what is going on in the yard!" she cried. "The_ill be left!… "
  • "What's the matter with you? Who are 'they'? What do you want?"
  • "Why, the wounded! It's impossible, Mamma. It's monstrous!… No, Mamma darling, it's not the thing. Please forgive me, darling… . Mamma, what does it matte_hat we take away? Only look what is going on in the yard… Mamma!… It'_mpossible!"
  • The count stood by the window and listened without turning round. Suddenly h_niffed and put his face closer to the window.
  • The countess glanced at her daughter, saw her face full of shame for he_other, saw her agitation, and understood why her husband did not turn to loo_t her now, and she glanced round quite disconcerted.
  • "Oh, do as you like! Am I hindering anyone?" she said, not surrendering a_nce.
  • "Mamma, darling, forgive me!"
  • But the countess pushed her daughter away and went up to her husband.
  • "My dear, you order what is right… . You know I don't understand about it,"
  • said she, dropping her eyes shamefacedly.
  • "The eggs… the eggs are teaching the hen," muttered the count through tears o_oy, and he embraced his wife who was glad to hide her look of shame on hi_reast.
  • "Papa! Mamma! May I see to it? May I?… " asked Natasha. "We will still tak_ll the most necessary things."
  • The count nodded affirmatively, and Natasha, at the rapid pace at which sh_sed to run when playing at tag, ran through the ballroom to the anteroom an_ownstairs into the yard.
  • The servants gathered round Natasha, but could not believe the strange orde_he brought them until the count himself, in his wife's name, confirmed th_rder to give up all the carts to the wounded and take the trunks to th_torerooms. When they understood that order the servants set to work at thi_ew task with pleasure and zeal. It no longer seemed strange to them but o_he contrary it seemed the only thing that could be done, just as a quarter o_n hour before it had not seemed strange to anyone that the wounded should b_eft behind and the goods carted away but that had seemed the only thing t_o.
  • The whole household, as if to atone for not having done it sooner, set eagerl_o work at the new task of placing the wounded in the carts. The wounde_ragged themselves out of their rooms and stood with pale but happy face_ound the carts. The news that carts were to be had spread to the neighborin_ouses, from which wounded men began to come into the Rostovs' yard. Many o_he wounded asked them not to unload the carts but only to let them sit on th_op of the things. But the work of unloading, once started, could not b_rrested. It seemed not to matter whether all or only half the things wer_eft behind. Cases full of china, bronzes, pictures, and mirrors that had bee_o carefully packed the night before now lay about the yard, and still the_ent on searching for and finding possibilities of unloading this or that an_etting the wounded have another and yet another cart.
  • "We can take four more men," said the steward. "They can have my trap, or els_hat is to become of them?"
  • "Let them have my wardrobe cart," said the countess. "Dunyasha can go with m_n the carriage."
  • They unloaded the wardrobe cart and sent it to take wounded men from a hous_wo doors off. The whole household, servants included, was bright an_nimated. Natasha was in a state of rapturous excitement such as she had no_nown for a long time.
  • "What could we fasten this onto?" asked the servants, trying to fix a trunk o_he narrow footboard behind a carriage. "We must keep at least one cart."
  • "What's in it?" asked Natasha.
  • "The count's books."
  • "Leave it, Vasilich will put it away. It's not wanted."
  • The phaeton was full of people and there was a doubt as to where Count Pete_ould sit.
  • "On the box. You'll sit on the box, won't you, Petya?" cried Natasha.
  • Sonya too was busy all this time, but the aim of her efforts was quit_ifferent from Natasha's. She was putting away the things that had to be lef_ehind and making a list of them as the countess wished, and she tried to ge_s much taken away with them as possible.