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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 9
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 9 Post by :wescoast Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :806

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 9

Until Prince Andrew settled in Bogucharovo its owners had always
been absentees, and its peasants were of quite a different character
from those of Bald Hills. They differed from them in speech, dress,
and disposition. They were called steppe peasants. The old prince used
to approve of them for their endurance at work when they came to
Bald Hills to help with the harvest or to dig ponds, and ditches,
but he disliked them for their boorishness.

Prince Andrew's last stay at Bogucharovo, when he introduced
hospitals and schools and reduced the quitrent the peasants had to
pay, had not softened their disposition but had on the contrary
strengthened in them the traits of character the old prince called
boorishness. Various obscure rumors were always current among them: at
one time a rumor that they would all be enrolled as Cossacks; at
another of a new religion to which they were all to be converted; then
of some proclamation of the Tsar's and of an oath to the Tsar Paul
in 1797 (in connection with which it was rumored that freedom had been
granted them but the landowners had stopped it), then of Peter
Fedorovich's return to the throne in seven years' time, when
everything would be made free and so "simple" that there would be no
restrictions. Rumors of the war with Bonaparte and his invasion were
connected in their minds with the same sort of vague notions of
Antichrist, the end of the world, and "pure freedom."

In the vicinity of Bogucharovo were large villages belonging to
the crown or to owners whose serfs paid quitrent and could work
where they pleased. There were very few resident landlords in the
neighborhood and also very few domestic or literate serfs, and in
the lives of the peasantry of those parts the mysterious undercurrents
in the life of the Russian people, the causes and meaning of which are
so baffling to contemporaries, were more clearly and strongly
noticeable than among others. One instance, which had occurred some
twenty years before, was a movement among the peasants to emigrate
to some unknown "warm rivers." Hundreds of peasants, among them the
Bogucharovo folk, suddenly began selling their cattle and moving in
whole families toward the southeast. As birds migrate to somewhere
beyond the sea, so these men with their wives and children streamed to
the southeast, to parts where none of them had ever been. They set off
in caravans, bought their freedom one by one or ran away, and drove or
walked toward the "warm rivers." Many of them were punished, some sent
to Siberia, many died of cold and hunger on the road, many returned of
their own accord, and the movement died down of itself just as it
had sprung up, without apparent reason. But such undercurrents still
existed among the people and gathered new forces ready to manifest
themselves just as strangely, unexpectedly, and at the same time
simply, naturally, and forcibly. Now in 1812, to anyone living in
close touch with these people it was apparent that these undercurrents
were acting strongly and nearing an eruption.

Alpatych, who had reached Bogucharovo shortly before the old
prince's death, noticed an agitation among the peasants, and that
contrary to what was happening in the Bald Hills district, where
over a radius of forty miles all the peasants were moving away and
leaving their villages to be devastated by the Cossacks, the
peasants in the steppe region round Bogucharovo were, it was
rumored, in touch with the French, received leaflets from them that
passed from hand to hand, and did not migrate. He learned from
domestic serfs loyal to him that the peasant Karp, who possessed great
influence in the village commune and had recently been away driving
a government transport, had returned with news that the Cossacks
were destroying deserted villages, but that the French did not harm
them. Alpatych also knew that on the previous day another peasant
had even brought from the village of Visloukhovo, which was occupied
by the French, a proclamation by a French general that no harm would
be done to the inhabitants, and if they remained they would be paid
for anything taken from them. As proof of this the peasant had brought
from Visloukhovo a hundred rubles in notes (he did not know that
they were false) paid to him in advance for hay.

More important still, Alpatych learned that on the morning of the
very day he gave the village Elder orders to collect carts to move the
princess' luggage from Bogucharovo, there had been a village meeting
at which it had been decided not to move but to wait. Yet there was no
time to waste. On the fifteenth, the day of the old prince's death,
the Marshal had insisted on Princess Mary's leaving at once, as it was
becoming dangerous. He had told her that after the sixteenth he
could not be responsible for what might happen. On the evening of
the day the old prince died the Marshal went away, promising to return
next day for the funeral. But this he was unable to do, for he
received tidings that the French had unexpectedly advanced, and had
barely time to remove his own family and valuables from his estate.

For some thirty years Bogucharovo had been managed by the village
Elder, Dron, whom the old prince called by the diminutive "Dronushka."

Dron was one of those physically and mentally vigorous peasants
who grow big beards as soon as they are of age and go on unchanged
till they are sixty or seventy, without a gray hair or the loss of a
tooth, as straight and strong at sixty as at thirty.

Soon after the migration to the "warm rivers," in which he had taken
part like the rest, Dron was made village Elder and overseer of
Bogucharovo, and had since filled that post irreproachably for
twenty-three years. The peasants feared him more than they did their
master. The masters, both the old prince and the young, and the
steward respected him and jestingly called him "the Minister."
During the whole time of his service Dron had never been drunk or ill,
never after sleepless nights or the hardest tasks had he shown the
least fatigue, and though he could not read he had never forgotten a
single money account or the number of quarters of flour in any of
the endless cartloads he sold for the prince, nor a single shock of
the whole corn crop on any single acre of the Bogucharovo fields.

Alpatych, arriving from the devastated Bald Hills estate, sent for
his Dron on the day of the prince's funeral and told him to have
twelve horses got ready for the princess' carriages and eighteen carts
for the things to be removed from Bogucharovo. Though the peasants
paid quitrent, Alpatych thought no difficulty would be made about
complying with this order, for there were two hundred and thirty
households at work in Bogucharovo and the peasants were well to do.
But on hearing the order Dron lowered his eyes and remained silent.
Alpatych named certain peasants he knew, from whom he told him to take
the carts.

Dron replied that the horses of these peasants were away carting.
Alpatych named others, but they too, according to Dron, had no
horses available: some horses were carting for the government,
others were too weak, and others had died for want of fodder. It
seemed that no horses could be had even for the carriages, much less
for the carting.

Alpatych looked intently at Dron and frowned. Just as Dron was a
model village Elder, so Alpatych had not managed the prince's
estates for twenty years in vain. He a model steward, possessing in
the highest degree the faculty of divining the needs and instincts
of those he dealt with. Having glanced at Dron he at once understood
that his answers did not express his personal views but the general
mood of the Bogucharovo commune, by which the Elder had already been
carried away. But he also knew that Dron, who had acquired property
and was hated by the commune, must be hesitating between the two
camps: the masters' and the serfs'. He noticed this hesitation in
Dron's look and therefore frowned and moved closer up to him.

"Now just listen, Dronushka," said he. "Don't talk nonsense to me.
His excellency Prince Andrew himself gave me orders to move all the
people away and not leave them with the enemy, and there is an order
from the Tsar about it too. Anyone who stays is a traitor to the Tsar.
Do you hear?"

"I hear," Dron answered without lifting his eyes.

Alpatych was not satisfied with this reply.

"Eh, Dron, it will turn out badly!" he said, shaking his head.

"The power is in your hands," Dron rejoined sadly.

"Eh, Dron, drop it!" Alpatych repeated, withdrawing his hand from
his bosom and solemnly pointing to the floor at Dron's feet. "I can
see through you and three yards into the ground under you," he
continued, gazing at the floor in front of Dron.

Dron was disconcerted, glanced furtively at Alpatych and again
lowered his eyes.

"You drop this nonsense and tell the people to get ready to leave
their homes and go to Moscow and to get carts ready for tomorrow
morning for the princess' things. And don't go to any meeting
yourself, do you hear?"

Dron suddenly fell on his knees.

"Yakov Alpatych, discharge me! Take the keys from me and discharge
me, for Christ's sake!"

"Stop that!" cried Alpatych sternly. "I see through you and three
yards under you," he repeated, knowing that his skill in beekeeping,
his knowledge of the right time to sow the oats, and the fact that
he had been able to retain the old prince's favor for twenty years had
long since gained him the reputation of being a wizard, and that the
power of seeing three yards under a man is considered an attribute
of wizards.

Dron got up and was about to say something, but Alpatych interrupted
him.

"What is it you have got into your heads, eh?... What are you
thinking of, eh?"

"What am I to do with the people?" said Dron. "They're quite
beside themselves; I have already told them..."

"'Told them,' I dare say!" said Alpatych. "Are they drinking?" he
asked abruptly.

"Quite beside themselves, Yakov Alpatych; they've fetched another
barrel."

"Well, then, listen! I'll go to the police officer, and you tell
them so, and that they must stop this and the carts must be got
ready."

"I understand."

Alpatych did not insist further. He had managed people for a long
time and knew that the chief way to make them obey is to show no
suspicion that they can possibly disobey. Having wrung a submissive "I
understand" from Dron, Alpatych contented himself with that, though he
not only doubted but felt almost certain that without the help of
troops the carts would not be forthcoming.

And so it was, for when evening came no carts had been provided.
In the village, outside the drink shop, another meeting was being
held, which decided that the horses should be driven out into the
woods and the carts should not be provided. Without saying anything of
this to the princess, Alpatych had his own belongings taken out of the
carts which had arrived from Bald Hills and had those horses got ready
for the princess' carriages. Meanwhile he went himself to the police
authorities.

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After her father's funeral Princess Mary shut herself up in her roomand did not admit anyone. A maid came to the door to say that Alpatychwas asking for orders about their departure. (This was before his talkwith Dron.) Princess Mary raised herself on the sofa on which shehad been lying and replied through the closed door that she did notmean to go away and begged to be left in peace.The windows of the room in which she was lying looked westward.She lay on the sofa with her face to the wall, fingering the buttonsof the leather cushion and seeing nothing but
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Princess Mary was not in Moscow and out of danger as Prince Andrewsupposed.After the return of Alpatych from Smolensk the old prince suddenlyseemed to awake as from a dream. He ordered the militiamen to becalled up from the villages and armed, and wrote a letter to thecommander in chief informing him that he had resolved to remain atBald Hills to the last extremity and to defend it, leaving to thecommander in chief's discretion to take measures or not for thedefense of Bald Hills one of Russia's oldest generals wouldbe captured or killed, and he announced to his household that he
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