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Chapter 20

  • Meanwhile Moscow was empty. There were still people in it, perhaps a fiftiet_art of its former inhabitants had remained, but it was empty. It was empty i_he sense that a dying queenless hive is empty.
  • In a queenless hive no life is left though to a superficial glance it seems a_uch alive as other hives.
  • The bees circle round a queenless hive in the hot beams of the midday sun a_aily as around the living hives; from a distance it smells of honey like th_thers, and bees fly in and out in the same way. But one has only to observ_hat hive to realize that there is no longer any life in it. The bees do no_ly in the same way, the smell and the sound that meet the beekeeper are no_he same. To the beekeeper's tap on the wall of the sick hive, instead of th_ormer instant unanimous humming of tens of thousands of bees with thei_bdomens threateningly compressed, and producing by the rapid vibration o_heir wings an aerial living sound, the only reply is a disconnected buzzin_rom different parts of the deserted hive. From the alighting board, instea_f the former spirituous fragrant smell of honey and venom, and the war_hiffs of crowded life, comes an odor of emptiness and decay mingling with th_mell of honey. There are no longer sentinels sounding the alarm with thei_bdomens raised, and ready to die in defense of the hive. There is no longe_he measured quiet sound of throbbing activity, like the sound of boilin_ater, but diverse discordant sounds of disorder. In and out of the hive lon_lack robber bees smeared with honey fly timidly and shiftily. They do no_ting, but crawl away from danger. Formerly only bees laden with honey fle_nto the hive, and they flew out empty; now they fly out laden. The beekeepe_pens the lower part of the hive and peers in. Instead of black, gloss_ees—tamed by toil, clinging to one another's legs and drawing out the wax,
  • with a ceaseless hum of labor- that used to hang in long clusters down to th_loor of the hive, drowsy shriveled bees crawl about separately in variou_irections on the floor and walls of the hive. Instead of a neatly glue_loor, swept by the bees with the fanning of their wings, there is a floo_ittered with bits of wax, excrement, dying bees scarcely moving their legs,
  • and dead ones that have not been cleared away.
  • The beekeeper opens the upper part of the hive and examines the super. Instea_f serried rows of bees sealing up every gap in the combs and keeping th_rood warm, he sees the skillful complex structures of the combs, but n_onger in their former state of purity. All is neglected and foul. Blac_obber bees are swiftly and stealthily prowling about the combs, and the shor_ome bees, shriveled and listless as if they were old, creep slowly abou_ithout trying to hinder the robbers, having lost all motive and all sense o_ife. Drones, bumblebees, wasps, and butterflies knock awkwardly against th_alls of the hive in their flight. Here and there among the cells containin_ead brood and honey an angry buzzing can sometimes be heard. Here and there _ouple of bees, by force of habit and custom cleaning out the brood cells,
  • with efforts beyond their strength laboriously drag away a dead bee o_umblebee without knowing why they do it. In another corner two old bees ar_anguidly fighting, or cleaning themselves, or feeding one another, withou_hemselves knowing whether they do it with friendly or hostile intent. In _hird place a crowd of bees, crushing one another, attack some victim an_ight and smother it, and the victim, enfeebled or killed, drops from abov_lowly and lightly as a feather, among the heap of corpses. The keeper open_he two center partitions to examine the brood cells. In place of the forme_lose dark circles formed by thousands of bees sitting back to back an_uarding the high mystery of generation, he sees hundreds of dull, listless,
  • and sleepy shells of bees. They have almost all died unawares, sitting in th_anctuary they had guarded and which is now no more. They reek of decay an_eath. Only a few of them still move, rise, and feebly fly to settle on th_nemy's hand, lacking the spirit to die stinging him; the rest are dead an_all as lightly as fish scales. The beekeeper closes the hive, chalks a mar_n it, and when he has time tears out its contents and burns it clean.
  • So in the same way Moscow was empty when Napoleon, weary, uneasy, and morose,
  • paced up and down in front of the Kammer-Kollezski rampart, awaiting what t_is mind was a necessary, if but formal, observance of the proprieties—_eputation.
  • In various corners of Moscow there still remained a few people aimlessl_oving about, following their old habits and hardly aware of what they wer_oing.
  • When with due circumspection Napoleon was informed that Moscow was empty, h_ooked angrily at his informant, turned away, and silently continued to wal_o and fro.
  • "My carriage!" he said.
  • He took his seat beside the aide-de-camp on duty and drove into the suburb.
  • "Moscow deserted!" he said to himself. "What an incredible event!"
  • He did not drive into the town, but put up at an inn in the Dorogomilo_uburb.
  • The coup de theatre had not come off.