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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 23
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 23 Post by :Iceman Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1788

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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 23

At that moment Count Rostopchin with his protruding chin and alert
eyes, wearing the uniform of a general with sash over his shoulder,
entered the room, stepping briskly to the front of the crowd of
gentry.

"Our sovereign the Emperor will be here in a moment," said
Rostopchin. "I am straight from the palace. Seeing the position we are
in, I think there is little need for discussion. The Emperor has
deigned to summon us and the merchants. Millions will pour forth
from there"- he pointed to the merchants' hall- "but our business is
to supply men and not spare ourselves... That is the least we can do!"

A conference took place confined to the magnates sitting at the
table. The whole consultation passed more than quietly. After all
the preceding noise the sound of their old voices saying one after
another, "I agree," or for variety, "I too am of that opinion," and so
on had even a mournful effect.

The secretary was told to write down the resolution of the Moscow
nobility and gentry, that they would furnish ten men, fully
equipped, out of every thousand serfs, as the Smolensk gentry had
done. Their chairs made a scraping noise as the gentlemen who had
conferred rose with apparent relief, and began walking up and down,
arm in arm, to stretch their legs and converse in couples.

"The Emperor! The Emperor!" a sudden cry resounded through the halls
and the whole throng hurried to the entrance.

The Emperor entered the hall through a broad path between two
lines of nobles. Every face expressed respectful, awe-struck
curiosity. Pierre stood rather far off and could not hear all that the
Emperor said. From what he did hear he understood that the Emperor
spoke of the danger threatening the empire and of the hopes he
placed on the Moscow nobility. He was answered by a voice which
informed him of the resolution just arrived at.

"Gentlemen!" said the Emperor with a quivering voice.

There was a rustling among the crowd and it again subsided, so
that Pierre distinctly heard the pleasantly human voice of the Emperor
saying with emotion:

"I never doubted the devotion of the Russian nobles, but today it
has surpassed my expectations. I thank you in the name of the
Fatherland! Gentlemen, let us act! Time is most precious..."

The Emperor ceased speaking, the crowd began pressing round him, and
rapturous exclamations were heard from all sides.

"Yes, most precious... a royal word," said Count Rostov, with a sob.
He stood at the back, and, though he had heard hardly anything,
understood everything in his own way.

From the hall of the nobility the Emperor went to that of the
merchants. There he remained about ten minutes. Pierre was among those
who saw him come out from the merchants' hall with tears of emotion in
his eyes. As became known later, he had scarcely begun to address
the merchants before tears gushed from his eyes and he concluded in
a trembling voice. When Pierre saw the Emperor he was coming out
accompanied by two merchants, one of whom Pierre knew, a fat
otkupshchik. The other was the mayor, a man with a thin sallow face
and narrow beard. Both were weeping. Tears filled the thin man's eyes,
and the fat otkupshchik sobbed outright like a child and kept
repeating:

"Our lives and property- take them, Your Majesty!"

Pierre's one feeling at the moment was a desire to show that he
was ready to go all lengths and was prepared to sacrifice
everything. He now felt ashamed of his speech with its
constitutional tendency and sought an opportunity of effacing it.
Having heard that Count Mamonov was furnishing a regiment, Bezukhov at
once informed Rostopchin that he would give a thousand men and their
maintenance.

Old Rostov could not tell his wife of what had passed without tears,
and at once consented to Petya's request and went himself to enter his
name.

Next day the Emperor left Moscow. The assembled nobles all took
off their uniforms and settled down again in their homes and clubs,
and not without some groans gave orders to their stewards about the
enrollment, feeling amazed themselves at what they had done.

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Two days later, on the fifteenth of July, an immense number ofcarriages were standing outside the Sloboda Palace.The great halls were full. In the first were the nobility and gentryin their uniforms, in the second bearded merchants in full-skirtedcoats of blue cloth and wearing medals. in the noblemen's hall therewas an incessant movement and buzz of voices. The chief magnates saton high-backed chairs at a large table under the portrait of theEmperor, but most of the gentry were strolling about the room.All these nobles, whom Pierre met every day at the Club or intheir own houses, were in uniform- some in
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