W&P Week 38:Three/Three/25

For 9/30/2021 (p. 960)

Scene: Moscow

Chapter 10

August 30 — Pierre reaches Moscow and goes directly to see Count Rastopchin, Moscow’s commander in chief. In the anteroom, he reads a mendacious, newly printed broadsheet that exhorts people to stay and be ready to support the army in defending Moscow; everybody there knows that this will not happen. Gossipers also fill him in on an alleged traitor under arrest, a “half-educated trader,” Vereshnagin (908). It is not clear whether the pamphlet that got him arrested was actually written by this man or by the postmaster, who has been banished from Moscow by Rastopchin for unclear reasons.

Chapter 11

Eventually, Pierre gets to see Rastopchin, who tells him to stay away from the freemasons and from the postmaster (Klyucharyov), although Rastopchin refuses to explain what crime he committed. He tells Pierre to leave town as soon as he can. Pierre goes home instead, reads Hélène’s letter, and the next morning, walks out of his house and vanishes.

Chapter 12

Meanwhile, with almost all aristocrats already gone as of August 20, the Rostovs are STILL in Moscow–they do not manage to leave until Sept. 1 (Napoleon arrives at the city on Sept 2). This is partly because the countess has managed to get Petya a post right outside of Moscow where she thinks he will not come to harm, and does not want to leave the vicinity–much to his chagrin, because he just wants to fight. They intend to leave on August 28, but keep delaying, as thousands of wounded Russian soldiers are streaming into the city. Sonya, although devastated when she hears that Nikolai has rescued Princess Marya and that the countess is openly rooting for their marriage, is actively supervising the packing, whereas Natasha is completely useless and “gay because she had been sad too long” (914) and excited about the dramatic events around her.

Chapter 13

Finally, on August 31 everything is being packed up, with Sonya most active and Natasha dawdling over a ballroom dress, when carts full of wounded men come along their streets, and the housekeeper, Mavra, pleads with Natasha for quarter for them. Natasha agrees to ask and gets permission from both her parents, but mostly because they are not paying any attention. The count is concerned because they have lingered too long, and the countess is afraid she can’t convince Petya to come with them as their alleged stalwart protector when they leave.

Chapter 14

Natasha now kicks into gear regarding the packing and has everything repacked. Meanwhile, in the evening of Aug 31, Mavra admits another severely wounded officer, who turns out be Andrei, now in the house without the Rostovs’ being aware of it.

Chapter 15

On September 1, “Moscow’s last day,” everything is in chaos. Many people try to leave , or sit in bars and cookshops, while carts are harder and harder to come by. The Rostovs’ steward, Vasilich, is trying hard not to yield any of the 30 peasant carts full of the Rostovs’ stuff to anyone, but then the count gives in when he is asked for some of them for the wounded soldiers. The countess is in uproar over this, accusing her husband of leaving their children’s remaining inheritance behind, as Berg arrives.

Chapter 16

Berg, self-important as ever, and with no military mission at all, comes to talk to them, mostly to get one of their carts to carry off a chiffonier and a dressing table that he has bought from another fleeing aristocrat. The count and the countess are clearly at odds about the carts, and only when Natasha figures out what is going on and accuses her mother of being “monstrous” for wanting to leave the wounded behind. The countess gives in (“the eggs are teaching the hen” says the count, 926) and Natasha herself gives the orders to unload the carts, and store the goods in the house, in a “state of rapturous excitement” (927).

Chapter 17

The wounded have taken off, and the four carriages are ready to go, as is the caleche that has Andrei in it. Sonya figures out from a maid who is in it, and shares this knowledge with the countess. They conspire to keep this from Natasha, and they all say their good-byes, as housekeeper Mavra and steward Vasilich are staying behind. The coachman patiently waits for things to get moving, the caleche going first. On the way out of town, they see Pierre in a strange outfit, a coachman’s coat, and Natasha congratulates him on staying in Mosco, but also realizes that he is in a strange state of mind.

Chapter 18

When Pierre walked away from his home and disappeared (Ch. 11), he actually goes to the house of his former mentor, Iosif Bazdeev, now deceased. He finds out from Bazdeev’s old servant that B’s widow has left Moscow; only a drunkard brother of Iosif and the servant, Gerasim, remain. But Gerasim accepts without question that Pierre hides out with them and asks him for a disguise of “peasant clothes” and a pistol, which is what they were trying to procure when the Rostovs’ see them (934).

Chapter 19

The Russian army’s retreat through the middle of Moscow happens that very night (Sept 1 is clearly a very long day), but by daybreak the gates and bridges on the other side are a gigantic military traffic jam. But by 10 am, most of the army is on the other side, while Napoleon looks at Moscow from Poklonny Hill, full of wonder at this city, which first appears as a holy mother (as to the Russians) and is then compared to a virgin about to be deflowered (935, yow). Napoleon fantasizes about sparing the city and making the Russians welcome him love and gratitude of his magnanimity. But his officers know that Moscow has been abandoned and that apart from “drunken mobs” no one is there to greet him, to surrender, or to negotiate with him. Napoleon waits in vain by the Dorogomilov gate for a deputation.

Chapter 20

Meanwhile, only “a fiftieth part” (so 2%?) of the Moscovites are still in town, but they are like the dying bees in an abandoned beehive before it gets burned clean by the beekeper (938-39–stark imagery!). When no deputation arrives and Napoleon is told that the town is empty, he stays overnight in Dorogomilov outside of town.

Chapter 21

The Russian troops that crossed Moscow that night took most wounded and remaining inhabitants with them, but they also steal things from various bazaars, where the remaining salesman waver between wanting to be protected by the officers and wanting to sell them their wares. Only when the bridges are cleared of civilians with gunfire do the troops finally leave.

Chapter 22

In the Rostovs’ deserted house, Vasilich’s grandson tries out the piano until Mavra chases him out. A young officer, only about 18, shows up at the door and claims to be part of the Rostov family, asking for money; Mavra gives him 25 rubles. (Who the heck is this kid? What’s the point?)

Chapter 23

Meanwhile, in one of the “dram-shops,” a drunken blacksmith and his friends starts a fight with the owner and a mob tries to walk him to the police, but soon everyone’s attention turns to another broadsheet from Rastopchin, and to the superintendent of police, who manages to get away, absconding with quite a bit of money, while the mob stays behind, feeling increasingly betrayed.

Chapter 24

The night prior, Rastopchin, feeling slighted by Kutuzov and the army leadership, and enraged that he is being told to abandon Moscow, is about to go looking for traitors and for signs of an uprising (because he will later defend all of his actions during these days on the basis of having had to prevent an uprising), and when he finds out that the traitor Vereshchagin has still not been executed, he decides to make an example of him.

Chapter 25

When Rastopchin goes in front of the assembling crowd in the courtyard that morning, with his carriage already ready to take him to his country house in Sokolniki, he tells them that “the villain who has caused the ruin of Moscow” needs to be punished (953) and basically throws Vereshchagin to the crowd, telling soldiers to “cut him down” and the crowd to basically tear him to pieces (955). Then he gets disgusted with the mob that he has created and takes off in his carriage for his country house. On the way, he is accosted by a madman from the nearby asylum, where a lunatic who seems to think he is Christ shouts at him (surreal scene, 959). He is trying but partly failing to defend his actions to himself, and then seeks out Kutuzov where he is stationed by a bridge outside of Moscow, accusing him of having lied about being determined not to give up Moscow without a battle [?]. Kutusov tells him something “meaningless” (959)–“I shall not give up Moscow without a battle” although he seemingly already has, and Rastopchin leaves to help clear the blocked bridges. [I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THIS IS RELEVANT.]