Daniel Pierce Thompson - The Green Mountain Boys (1840)
(United States, 1795-1868)
In this Vermont classic, which covers the periods of the controversy with New York, and the Revolution, certain incidents historically separated by one or more years are woven together for the sake of unity of design. The author; as he says in the preface to the first edition, obtained much of his material from private papers, and from aged participants in the scenes described. The work has passed through more than fifty editions, and has been translated into several foreign languages. The original of "Warrington" was Seth Warner; of " Selden" Colonel Samuel Herrick; of "Captain Hèndee," Captain Jehiel Hawley of Arlington; "Sherwood" is a composite character; "Prouty" stands for one of three justices who dared to accept office from New York; Munroe, Skene, Reed, and McIntosh figure under their own names; but the last never was actually a belligerent: Ann Story wits a local character, and her cave played a part during the contest.
NE April day in 1772 five men, bound northward to avenge the wrongs of some settlers, halted at Lake Dunmore, on the western side of the Green Mountains. The leader, Captain Warrington (who had been outlawed by the New York Government), and his friend Selden, showed by their language and manners familiarity with refined society.
At nightfall these " Green Mountain Boys" were warned that Munroe, a "York" sheriff, was in pursuit. The information, brought a young Indian, Neshobee; came from a Mrs. Story, a widow living not far away. The posse, guided by Jacob Sherwood, a spy, and the secret agent of New York land-jobbers, surrounded a cave in which all the Vermonters were supposed to be concealed, and the surrender of the "kenneled dogs" was demanded. Munroe's supporters, by no means valorous were suddenly alarmed by the scream of a catamount; and by the sight of fiery eyes in the thicket above the cave. They wasted their ammunition on the beast, and then, thinking they saw him leap, and dreading his fury when wounded, fled, stumbling in the darkness. The Vermonters, springing from cave and underbrush, easily bound Munroe and two others, and threw them into the lake. The spy was captured later by Pete Jones, the humorist of the party, who had created the "catamount" out of dry grass, his fur cap (serving as the head), and "fox-fire." Sherwood, after a "beech-sealing," or, to use another localism, "a chastisement with the twigs of the wilderness," took to his heels.
The Vermonters retreated from the lake, Warrington and Selden to spend the night at Mrs. Story's. Unable to sleep, Warrington strolled out, and was astonished to hear, though faintly, someone singing. The voice recalled a certain woman, but one who could not possibly be in that region. His noisy efforts to discover whence the sounds proceeded caused them to cease. Mrs. Story, next morning, evaded his questions unsuccessfully; suspicion became belief, and finally admitting that "a rosebud" she would gladly see him gather was indeed in that wilderness, she showed him an underground room, termed by her "t'other world," a place of refuge in time of danger. The singer had been secreted there, but was now far away, and the hedge was too high for his leaping, at present.
At a late hour next day Munroe and his band appeared; but Mrs. Story, a veritable Amazon, with rifle pointed, prevented them from searching her house; professed ignorance of Warrington's whereabouts, and by galling references to a beech-sealing he had once given Munroe caused the sheriff to depart.
Colonel Reed, commander of a regiment of Highlanders under Wolfe, on leaving the army bought from New York land-jobbers a tract on the lower falls of the Otter, where Vergennes now stands. He evicted the settlers, holders under New Hampshire patents, erected a log fort, established a garrison of his veterans, under Sergeant Donald McIntosh, and returned to Canada. An attempt to take the fort had failed; but Warrington, his force now slightly increased, was determined to succeed.
The garrison, notified by Sherwood, met the enemy in the open, taking advantage of some scattered piles of logs. A running but bloodless fight ensued, the Highlanders firing and then scampering from ambuscade to ambuscade, finally falling back to the gate of the fort. Meanwhile, Warrington and Selden, reconnoitering in the rear of the fort, had discovered the only occupants to be two young women, one of whom held a rifle. They succeeded in getting over the stockade and, after a bullet had narrowly missed Selden, in quieting the panic-stricken pair —Jessie Reed, the Colonel's daughter, and Zilpah, her half-breed servant.
Disregarding Warrington's command to surrender, and dismayed to find foes behind him, McIntosh commanded his men to reload. With a rush the Vermonters disarmed them, or, grappling, threw them, but the Scotchmen did not yield until they saw their leader bound. He, however, protested that he would not call himself a prisoner "wi'out first settling the conditions o' the surrender." The victors humored him; he marched his men into the stockade, marched them out, grounded arms, and pronounced himself and them prisoners of war, to depart on parole. Miss Reed was taken by Selden to the house of friends of hers at Skenesboro. Her charms impressed him deeply, and, growing confidential, he told her he was ignorant of the names of his parents and birthplace. Falling into mercenary hands in childhood, he had suffered and wandered much, and finally been taken to England, where a nobleman had befriended and educated him. Weary of Europe, he had returned to his native country, and, fancying frontier life, had come to the Grants.
Warrington, with a part of his force, went southward to Snake Mountain opposite Crown Point (called Carillon when the French held it). Here lay lands belonging to him, and strolling alone he discovered well-tilled fields and substantial buildings. As he gazed upon the landscape framing Lake Champlain, he heard the splash of oars. A man landed and stealthily crept toward the edge of the clearing. Then came the alarmed cry of a woman, followed by the entreating tones of the man; then a scream that sent Warrington leaping to the spot. The assailant fled, and Warrington stood face to face with Alma Hendee, one long loved and long lost. On recognizing her deliverer, she addressed him as Mr. Howard, and told him yonder was her home, doomed, she feared, to a visit from "that terrible ruffian Warrington" and his band. She vainly urged "Howard" to renew his acquaintance with her father. He addressed her as her lover, but she discouraged him; someone she would not name had come between them; still, she would grant another interview, but only in her father's presence. She left him repelled but not despairing. Several years previously, Warrington, as "Mr. Howard," had journeyed into New York in the secret interests of his fellow-patriots. He had met the Hendees accidentally, nursed Captain Hendee, a retired officer, through an illness, and made progress on the path to Alma's heart. But suddenly and without explanation they had disappeared. Now they were unwittingly occupying his lands, under a York title.
The ruffian Darrow, whom Warrington foiled, on escaping informed Sherwood that "the outlaw" was paying Alma visits, and the spy, with double purpose, laid a plot. John, Jacob Sher-wood's father, years before this, mismanaged (profitably) property belonging to Captain Hendee. He also induced Gabriel Hendee, the Captain's brother, to add a codicil to a will and make him legatee in the event of the death of the Captain's little son. The boy soon disappeared and was given up as dead. Sherwood came into the estate, but, professing great friendship for the Captain, paid certain debts that the latter had contracted, and enabled him to buy the lands on the lake. Jacob was now Alma's suitor, favored by her father, who hoped that Gabriel's estate would thus return to the family.
"Mr. Howard" walked in one evening, to receive a hearty welcome from the Captain, who, however, was ignorant of his chivalrous rescue of Alma. Neshobee, their servant, recognized him, but said nothing. The Hendees' sudden flight, years be-fore, was explained as an escape from unnecessarily aggressive creditors. A note left for Howard had miscarried. Soon an-other visitor entered--one whose great stature and lionlike features marked him as no common mortal,. He puzzled them by declaring: "For the month of May, my name is Smith." By cautious questions he learned that Hendee was no friend to the King, and then, with deep emotion, said that American blood had just been shed at Lexington,
"Are we of the Green Mountains to remain idle?" he asked. By all the thrones of Heaven and Hell, no!"
When he rose to leave he asked Warrington to accompany him as guide; but the Hendees would not part with their friend. At that moment the tramp of men was heard, and Alma, recognizing Darrow's voice, drew Warrington into another room. Soldiers from the fort entered, being obliged, as Darrow apologizing said, to ask for hospitality. He recognized in Smith a greater prize, alive or dead, than even Warrington, but decided to defer action until both were asleep. Smith, though in a predicament, dissembled, captivated the company by his droll stories, and finally called on Hendee to bring out spirits at his expense; they would drink health to the King and confusion to all enemies.
Alma, meanwhile, had learned that "Howard" was Warrington, but she had not condemned him. If he escaped that night he must not risk his life again, and Warrington at last discovered that Sherwood was both rival and foe. At her request he joined the others and found Smith to be the most maudlin of the group. It was time to retire, and Smith insisted that his military friends should take the few spare beds. He would sleep in the barn, and compel that scurvy fellow (Warrington), who would not drink like a gentleman, to share the hay with him. They would leave their rifles in the house—and at these words Darrow congratulated himself. Smith was dragged, staggering, to the barn and pitched into the hay, where he was joined by Warrington. As soon as they were alone, Smith said:
"Charles, see if you can pull off my plaguey boots: there is more than a quart of whisky in them."
He had, it appeared, buttoned his high-collared coat over his chin and had dashed every glass down his bosom. Now Neshobee stole upon them, bringing their rifles, sent by Alma. The guard having gone in to drink, the friends were soon in the heart of the forest. Smith said he had come to that locality to ascertain the sentiments of the settlers opposite Crown Point, for something daring was afoot.
They repaired to a secret rendezvous near the middle falls of the Otter, whither next day came Selden and Jones, escorting one Prouty, who had just accepted the office of justice of the peace from the New York Government. They lured him by insisting that important business required his attention; that they were "on the right side" (he had asked the question); and that they hoped Sherwood would be present. To his horror, his journey ended at a forest covert filled with Green Mountain Boys, headed by Smith—none other than the great Ethan Allen.
Another prisoner was brought in, a York surveyor; and Allen, after reading the evidence against them, asked "the min-ions" whether they knew any reason why they should not be "viewed," a cant phrase, signifying the punishment of offenders. The surveyor protested against being tried by any but a court acting under the authority of New York. Prouty was compelled to sentence him and then to execute the sentence, which was a lashing. Allen threw a rod at the surveyor's feet, saying that if he felt the sentence to be unjust he must avenge the injury. Prouty's birch rod fell feebly until quickened by threats of a lynching, then so cruelly that the surveyor caught up his own rod, swearing that he would punish the squire for suffering himself to be made the tool of a mob. Prouty soon shrieked for mercy, and the men were released; the Squire to be dismissed with a warning, the surveyor to be taken to the New York line, across which he was propelled by a kick from Jones.
One night, not long afterward, a number of settlers assembled in a barn near Middlebury. Warrington, on his way to join them, was dogged by Darrow, Sherwood's emissary, who at-tempted to shoot him and got away unpunished. Each man, on entering the barn, which was dimly lighted by one candle, gave the watchword "Carillon." The company bound itself not to divulge the proceedings and the consequent measures. Warrington and Remember Baker, another "outlaw," rehearsed eloquently the wrongs the Vermonters had suffered, and the necessity for continued resistance. Ethan Allen brought the growing enthusiasm to a climax, by appealing to them as men who never were born to be slaves, either to little tyrants at home or to great ones abroad, and who had drunk in liberty from the very air of those green hills, to aid in avenging the murder at Lexington.
"Follow me," he cried, "and I will lead you to deeds that shall cover the Green Mountain Boys with imperishable glory!"
He then disclosed his project, the capture of the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point. "Ethan Allen forever!" rose in one convulsive shout, and they were instructed to assemble at Castleton a few days later, to be mustered in.
Sherwood informed Captain Hendee that he was harboring a branded villain, whose aim was the seduction of Alma and the seizure of his property. A stormy interview between father and daughter followed, and the girl took advantage of the painful situation to visit Mrs. Story, her aunt. She now heard Warring-ton's praises sung and Sherwood's villainy made clear. The young Captain, happening to call, renewed his attentions, and was accepted.
The dispute at Castleton between Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen was happily settled by Warrington, who persuaded Arnold not to ruin the enterprise by insisting on his right to command. "Old Ti" fell; but owing to delay in obtaining boats Warring-ton did not arrive until after the surrender. Allen consoled him with the promise that he should lead the expedition against Crown Point, and the stone castle of Major Skene, a Tory. Warrington objected that Selden was the man to take the castle, for Miss Reed was a visitor there; and to this Allen laughingly agreed.
The Hendees heard the cannonading, but knew not what it signified until a horseman dashed by, spreading the news. Toward sunset they saw bateaux full of armed men bearing down on Crown Point. Alma, through a glass, made out the features of the leader. They saw the British flag fall from its staff, and soon Neshobee came to announce that the "young Cappen you call Misser Howard" was in possession of the fort. Hendee's pride in Warrington's achievement was tempered with resentment. What if Sherwood's charges were untrue? However, things must remain as they were; he had been compelled to borrow money from Jacob. He was unaware that Pete Jones, Cupid's seven-foot messenger, had already brought Alma a note entreating her to elope, and that she had refused, being unwilling to marry unless openly. Not many days later Miss Reed wrote that she was Selden's captive for the second time.
Warrington, now stationed at Crown Point, repeated his visits, whlch Alma's neighbors commented on banteringly, yet with ominous warnings, for they knew Sherwood only too well. A strolling tinker visited the house one day, and in a casual conversation with him Alma learned that he had known the captor of Crown Point from childhood. The only thing to his discredit was his desertion of his wife in Connecticut. Overwhelmed by this revelation, the girl impetuously wrote, breaking the engagement. Warrington, en route to Canada, had no time to reply.
Alma now received Sherwood's addresses somewhat indulgently, thinking he might have been maligned. A penitent note was sent by the tinker, saying that he had been bribed by a man whose name he would wlthhold, and had lied to her. Sherwood, on his next call, was repelled as "the instigator of the assassination of a supposed rival." Captain Hendee, on Alma's disclosure of the facts and her attachment to Warrington, their magnanimous friend, ordered the spy from the premises. Other disappointments followed. John Sherwood died, after willing back the Hendee property. A "remorseful letter, making important revelations, was secured by Jacob and burned, but the attorney could not be bribed to surrender the will. Darrow reported that he had seen at Crown Point a young officer so closely resembling the long-lost Edward Hendee as to make it probable that they were identlcal.
Burgoyne was now moving down from Canada, and an allied band of Tories and Indians under Sherwood, who had been made a captain, was ravaging northern Vermont. The Hendees, accompanied by Miss Reed, now their guest, deserted their home and fled, but were captured and carried to a Tory encampment; Alma being confined in a separate house. There Sherwood visited her, to say she could free herself and her friends only by marrying him at once—a clergyman was within call—and if she would not a worse fate than death awaited her; he would return in two hours for her decision. A terrific thunderstorm added to her terrors, and a mysterious sound in the chimney seemed to indicate the approach of some new enemy. A flash of lightning revealed the intruder, Neshobee. The guard had sought the other side of the house for shelter; by following him back, up the chimney, she could escape; but, fearing that the light color of her dress would betray her, or that she could not survive a night of exposure, she bade him leave her to her fate. He could save the others by hastening to Ticonderoga. No sooner had he gone than another lightning flash revealed Sherwood returning, and she sank in a swoon.
Warrington was only three miles away with the rear-guard of St. Clair's army. Neshobee, while threading the dripping forest, learned this fact, chancing to discover a British encampment and to overhear two sentries discussing a projected attack on the Vermonters. The boy, finding Warrington, reported the plight of the Hendees and the British plans, and Selden set out to rescue his friends.
Sherwood had his hand on the door when Darrow came striding after, to say that Neshobee had escaped. They must march at once, or Warrington would fall upon them. The captives were hurried forward until danger from pursuit was believed to be over, when a halt was called for a hasty meal. 'They had hardly finished it when a peal of musketry was heard; the battle of Hubbardton had begun. Leaving a guard under Dar-row, Sherwood led his band to cooperate with the army when needed. From a wooded cliff the prisoners watched the con-test and at last saw the redcoats break and scatter. Suddenly Selden's force came charging upon their captors, killing some and forcing others to leap headlong from the cliff. A war-cry rose from below; Sherwood was returning; but the fugitives, thanks to Selden's intervening rifles, gained a distant ravine that sheltered them from discovery.
The battle opened anew, Riedesel and his Hessians having arrived. Their coming had been made known to Captain Hendee through the boasts of one of his captors, and Selden, hearing the news, had reported to Warrington. At the moment the firing began, he galloped back, accompanied by a, soldier with two horses. Instant flight was imperative, or they would fall into the hands of a brutal soldiery. Regaining the recesses of the forest, the friends reached unhindered the nearest place of safety, and at sunset came to the bank of Otter Creek., opposite Mrs. Story's.
The good woman paddled over in her canoe, which was quickly filled, so full, Alma declared, that she must wait till the second crossing. If danger came, what mattered it? Selden told Mrs. Story, astonished at this remark, that the soldier with him had seen Warrington fall on the field. She yielded, how-ever, and none too soon, for the sound of firing, not far away, showed that Jones and his men were being driven in. They, too, reached the other bank, but hardly in advance of the pursuers, who now began to cross, some using the horses Selden had abandoned, the Indians swimming. The women took refuge in the cellar of the house, and then, by a secret passage, in an excavated room communicating with Mrs. Story's "t'other world."
The heavy logs of which the house was built, soaked by the rain of the night before, promised to withstand continued shots, and loopholes in them gave opportunity to return the fire that was directed at intervals from the woods. Attempts to batter down the door and to fire the roof having been foiled, the enemy heaped combustibles against the house and set them ablaze. The flames and smoke compelled the besieged to join the women in the underground rooms, but Selden and Jones crept out by a well-concealed exit to reconnoiter. The walls of the house now fell in, and Sherwood stood aghast. Darrow, however, maintained that their foes must have escaped by some subterranean passage. The two men darted forward to discover the trail, and came upon Selden, with whom they grappled, drawing knives. Jones, rushing to the spot, hurled Sherwood against a tree, and with his clubbed rifle knocked Darrow senseless. Rallying cries compelled the Vermonters to leave them unkilled and to regain the cave, the exit from which was soon discovered, but was barred from entrance by heavy timbers and aggressive bayonets.
A hollow sound, given back to trampling feet, revealed the main hiding-place, and the roof began to shake, while strokes of fast-driven stakes mingled with triumphant yells. Earth and stones began to fall. One resource was left, and, at Captain Hendee's suggestion, was availed of. In a recess stood some casks of powder, stored there by settlers. They were drawn out, and the women were sent into the remotest corner. Selden laid a train of dry powder from the opened casks across the room under the excavators, and Jones prepared a slow match.
Two excavations had been made above, and their foes were about to leap down, and also to rush in through a passage that had been forced. The match hissed, and with a concussion that threw the besieged off their feet, the earth yawned; distorted and writhing human forms, trunks of trees, rocks, earth, shot upward in the flaming mass; the returning shower of ruins thundered down, and a deathlike silence succeeded.
Venturing out next morning, the patriots beheld an appalling scene of death and destruction. They were hastening from the spot when they discovered a man, living but horribly maimed, who proved to be Darrow. He cursed Sherwood, who had escaped and in the hope that he (Darrow), who "knew too much about the Sherwoods," had perished. Between his paroxysms he confessed that he was their tool in the abduction of Edward Hendee, who, if still alive, was standing by Captain Hendee. The proof would be two crossed arrows he had pricked into one of the boy's arms, before selling him to an Indian. All gazed, astonished at Selden, obviously the one referred to. His face lighted; he held up his bare arm, exultingly; and father, son, and daughter were folded in a long embrace. With a muttered "Revenged on the destroyers of my soul and body!" Darrow expired.
At that moment horsemen dashed up, headed by Warrington. He was retreating to Manchester, and having guessed at the course his friends had taken, had followed them. The party proceeded, unmolested, to one of the older settlements.
About a year later a company assembled at Captain Hendee's to celebrate two weddings. Selden came in from Albany, whither he had been to make himself known to John Sherwood's attorney and to receive acquittances from Jacob, who had thrown himself on his mercy. The guests were amused by a letter from Colonel Reed, who confessed himself checkmated and regretted that he could not be present to drink his stoup on the merry occasion. Pete Jones, insisting that two weddings were not enough, rather abruptly proposed to Ruth, Alma's faithful maid, who was no longer young but coy. Ethan Allen, who arrived unexpectedly, after his long imprisonment, aided in bringing Ruth to terms, and next persuaded the willing but doubting Zilpah to cast in her lot with that of only too willing Neshobee. Four couples being ready, Allen cried: "Now, parson, do yottr duty!"
Warrington and Selderi returned to the army, to win distinction. When the war ended they returned to the Green Mountains to receive substantial rewards from their grateful fellow-countrymen. Sherwood joined his Tory brethren in the South, and at the close of the Revolution sought refuge in Canada, where he died in poverty and disgrace.
LYOF NICOLAIEVITCH TOLSTOI - WAR AND PEACE (1865)
Tolstoi began a novel, The Decembrists, in which he purposed to treat of those concerned in the conspiracy of 1825, an important episode in Russian history, but, after writing three chapters, his attention was irresistibly drawn to the events that led up to the conspiracy. The result was the abandonment of the novel and the production of War and Peace. This colossal work presents an intimate view of Russia during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Every grade of Russian life is pictured, from court circles to pot-house gatherings, of peasants, from councils of state to filthy military dungeons. Thirty-five of the characters that figure conspicuously in the development of the story are historical. They include Alexander, the Emperor, Kutuzof, the general who commanded the Russian army at Borodino and during Napoleon's Moscow campaign, as well as Napoleon himself. A great part of the work is devoted to the Napoleonic wars, which are treated historically and from the point of view of fatalistic philosophy. Indeed, fatalism is the strong undercurrent throughout the work, and its application to Napoleon makes many chapters read as if Tolstoi held a brief to demonstrate that the French Emperor was contemptibly commonplace in his gifts, not a genius, either military or executive, but on the contrary a rather stupid creature of circumstances.
cOUNT KIRILL BEZUKHOI, the richest man in Russia, died in 1805, leaving all his property to his illegitimate son, Pierre. just before his death the Count petitioned the Emperor to legitimize his son, and, the petition granted, Pierre succeeded unopposed not only to the vast estates but to his father's title and position in the social world. Pierre was wholly unprepared for this ,. change in his status. He had been well educated, was little more than twenty years old, and had returned to Russia from. Western Europe considerably imbued with mod-ern ideas regarding constitutional government, but with no training in the ways of society; no taste or capacity for business, no aim except to take life as he, found it and gratify his sensual desires. For the latter there had always been money in abundance, and now there was more than he knew what to do with.
Of course there was widespread disappointment when the contents of the old Count's will were known. There were legitimate relatives who had counted on sharing the property; but the more distant connections bowed to the inevitable and studied how they might gain sway over Pierre to their own aggrandizement, meantime amazing and bewildering him with manifestations of deference and affection; and the nearer relatives speedily found that they had no cause for complaint, for Pierre promptly made such disposition of his resources that all could live as luxuriously as if they had come into independent possession of a portion of the estate.
Among the distant connections was Prince Vassili Kuragin, whose fortune had been considerably impaired by extravagant living. He had two sons, both spendthrifts, and a daughter—all unmarried. It occurred to him that the best way to ease his disappointment would be to marry his daughter to Pierre. The Princess Elena was beautiful and willing. Such a thing as re-fusing the richest man in Russia was unthinkable. Her father invited Pierre to be his guest in St. Petersburg, ostensibly that he might be guided in his entrance to society, and Pierre accepted the invitation because he knew not what else to do. It was all a mystery to him, this huge fortune and the sudden adulation of those who formerly tolerated or ignored him altogether. When Prince Vassili vaguely spoke of the responsibilities of his position, Pierre had merely a troubled conviction that it must be so, but what the responsibilities were he could not imagine, for an army of agents looked after his property, and everything seemed to be done as it should be. Also, when Prince Vassili announced with affectionate solicitude that the next step should be marriage, Pierre assented, although he could not see why marriage should be the next step, or to what the step should lead. He did not love the beautiful Elena, but he did perceive after a time that he was expected to marry her. It was all very confusing and unsatisfactory. Why should he not marry her? Undoubtedly he would do so, for everything seemed to be pre-arranged for him. His property was thrust upon him, he had been hurled at society; but why should he marry her? How could he confess love to her—that being, as he knew, the conventional procedure—when he felt no love?
The difficulty was solved for him at last by his good guide, Prince Vassili, who, having waited beyond endurance for Pierre to propose, suddenly gave the young man his blessing as if a formal proposal had been made. Pierre, who at the moment was talking awkwardly with Elena, stammered and blushed. Elena, taking the cue from her father, threw herself on Pierre's breast and babbled that she was his. And Pierre, for the life of him, could see nothing to do but take her. And so they were married.
Love did not follow on the heels of the wedding. Pierre faithfully tried to follow his wife's lead, and made himself exceedingly uncomfortable thereby. He was always dimly conscious of his false relationship to his surroundings, and that made him withdraw into himself, so that he appeared gloomy and morose. He supplied money to his wife without stint, and she took every possible advantage of her opportunity to dazzle the social world. For a time Pierre figured with her in brilliant functions at his St. Petersburg residence and accompanied her to the great houses of the capital; but as there was no love on either side, and as receptions and balls and endless dinners were boresome to him, he at last became little more than a shadowy figure in the background of his wife's magnificence. Elena lived her life without hindrance from her husband, and she tacitly granted him the retirement he preferred. While she continued to disport herself at St. Petersburg, he returned to his palace in Moscow.
Even there Pierre could not escape the obligations of his social position. He was without aim, he had no desires beyond those of the moment. He was one of the select few invited to the dinner at the English Club in honor of Prince Bagration after the campaign that culminated with Austerlitz. The enthusiasm of his friends failed to arouse him from his customary stolidity. He actually forgot to rise when the Emperor was toasted, and when his attention was called to his error he stood up quickly, blushing furiously.
There was a special reason for Pierre's unsociability on this occasion. Rumor for some time had been busy with the doings of Elena, and some intimation of what was being passed from mouth to mouth had reached him. He had not been disturbed until that very morning, when one of those geniuses who con-fine their productions to anonymous letters had advised him to get better spectacles, that he might perceive what everybody else saw clearly, the conduct of his wife with Feodor Dolokhof. Even then Pierre cast the scandal from him. He did not love his wife, but he did respect her. It was impossible to think of her as other than upright. Nevertheless, the consciousness that whenever his friends greeted him they had the scandal in mind was oppressive; and when he found Dolokhof sitting opposite him at the dinner to Prince Bagration, he could not shake off his discomfort. His taciturnity piqued others besides Dolokhof, to whom it appeared to be purposely offensive.
In the course of the post-prandial exercises a waiter handed to the more distinguished guests copies of a cantata written for the occasion, and one of these was given to Pierre. Dolokhof seized it and began to read it. Pierre stared at Dolokhof; and that awful and ugly something that had been tormenting all through dinner now arose and overmastered him. He leaned his bulky frame toward Dolokhof.
" Don't you dare take it," he said.
Pierre's friends immediately tried to restrain him, begging him in whispers to be cautious.
"I will not give it back," replied Dolokhof insolently.
Pierre snatched the paper away. "You blackguard!" he hissed, "I shall call you to account for this," and he abruptly left the table.
Pierre now became convinced of his wife's guilt, and from that moment he hated her. The duel took place at daybreak the following morning. Dolokhof was a soldier and was celebrated for his skill both with sword and pistol. Pierre knew nothing of fencing and until that moment never had had a pistol in his hand. He went to the encounter with the greatest repugnance. It was not fear that stirred him, although he supposed he would be killed. The idea of making his domestic disgrace an issue of life or death to himself or another was in-tolerable, There was no reason in it. Every grain of sense and generosity in his nature revolted; but it had to be, like everything else in his unsatisfactory life. Up to the very last moment the seconds believed that the encounter would be averted. Swords were driven into the snow ten paces apart to mark the limits to which each contestant was bound. They were to stand about forty paces apart and, at the word, approach the swords, firing at will. Pierre's second advised him that the affair was without sufficient reason.
"Oh, yes," admitted Pierre, "horribly foolish."
"Then allow me to offer your regrets," sald the second. "The insult was not wholly on one side. Let me confer:"
"No, there's nothing to be said," Pierre replied. "Is everything ready?"
"No apologies," said Dolokhof, when similar suggestlons were made to him.
They went to their places, and the reluctant seconds gave the word only when the adversaries impatiently demanded it. Pierre strode forward, brandishing his pistol in a way that would have been comic if the occasion had not been so tragic. For a time it seemed that the seconds were in more peril than his adversary. All the time he was thinklng how inexcusably absurd the proceeding was, and that was the meaning of the contemptuous smile on his face. "I can fire as soon as I please," he thought; "well, the sooner it's over, the better." With a hasty glance at Dolokhof, he pulled the trigger in the way he had been told to do, and jumped nervously at the report, which was much louder than he had anticipated. Then he heard a cry and saw Dolokhof stagger and fall. Impulsively he ran forward to help, but the seconds called to him not to pass the boundary, and Pierre, rememberlng that the other had a right to shoot, stopped at the sword. His second advised him to stand sidewise, but he would not budge. He kept his huge frame full front toward Dolokhof, who was struggling to rise. Dolokhof sank again, and greedily filled his mouth with snow. Again he tried to rise. In a half-recumbent posture he aimed his weapon. Pierre, with a smile of compassion on his face, looked anxiously at him. The seconds closed their eyes and turned away. The report followed.
"Missed!" groaned Dolokhof, and sank face down in the snow.
Pierre had not killed his man, but the wound was dangerous, and it was advisable for him to leave Moscow. He set out for St. Petersburg and on the way fell in with an aged man who interested him in Freemasonry. They talked long about the fundamental principles of the order at a post-house where they spent a night. The idea of brotherhood appealed to Pierre. He resumed his journey uplifted for the first time by an ambition: to make his own life pure. It was, for the moment, a passion that absorbed him.
As soon as possible after arriving at St. Petersburg, he be-came a Mason; but the fact of the duel made it quite as inadvisable to remain in the northern capital as in the southern. It was necessary for him to go into retirement until the sensation should blow over. He had estates in distant parts of Russia that he had never seen. He now visited these in turn, and, under the influence of his new convictions, ordered many reforms, few of which were executed by his agents, and Pierre succeeded in making the condition of his serfs rather harder than before.
In the broad matter of generosity he believed that he fulfilled his Masonic obligations, but he could not command his private life. He very soon slipped back to heavy drinking and the loose habits of his bachelor days. For years his chief interest was his Masonic work; he even traveled to other countries to learn more of the rites, and he attained a very high rank in the order; but he was vaguely conscious through it all that he had not gained from Masonry all that it promised, all that he had hoped.
Pierre's dearest friend was Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, only son of an eccentric and powerful nobleman who, years before, had been exiled from court and compelled to live on his own estate. The young men had seen little of each other since 1805, because Andrei had gone to the wars. He was severely wounded at Austerlitz, and thereafter had retired from the service and devoted himself to the management of his own property. His life, too, was unsatisfactory. War had aroused his ambition for glory. He had attained great distinction by heroic conduct, and his advice on military matters was respected, if not heeded, in the highest quarters; but the folly of war had been impressed upon him by his experience, and he felt the emptiness of glory.
Andrei had been married, but his wife died in giving birth to his son just after his return from Austerlitz. He believed that life had nothing more for him except such as duty to his son directed, and he seldom appeared in society, either at St. Petersburg or at Moscow. But circumstances connected with the routine affairs of his estate brought him into contact with the Rostof family, in which there was a daughter, Natalie, whose ingenuous gaiety and beauty stirred his heart as it had not been stirred even by the mother of his son. Prince Andrei was slow in yielding to his passion, but it was his fate to love Natalie, and at last he proposed to her.
Natalie loved him with all a girl's enthusiasm for a hero, and but for one circumstance the match would have been regarded as most fortunate. The Prince's aged father refused his consent except on condition that a year should intervene before the wedding. It was not legally necessary to have the father's consent, but Andrei felt that his father's wishes should be respected, and the Rostofs reluctantly agreed. It was plainly understood that Natalie should not consider herself formally en-gaged. She was to have liberty to break the agreement, or rather to regard it as non-existent, if at any time her love or faith wavered. Time passed very slowly for her. She loved eagerly and felt that the best year of her life was being wasted to gratify the whim of an irascible old man; but she was not conscious of the slightest wavering in her affection until, some months after Andrei's departure, she was visiting Moscow. Elena held her court there that winter, and Natalie's beauty, as well as her rank—for her father was a count of ancient lineage—gave her ready access to the gaieties of the season. Elena's disreputable brother, Anatol, conceived a vile passion for Natalie and planned deliberately to undermine her affection for Prince Andrei. In this he acted not only with the knowledge of Elena, but to a certain extent with her sanction. He called the affair a flirtation, and Elena thought it would be amusing.
The girl was very young and inexperienced, and, more than all, her mother was far away in the country. She would have confided freely in her mother, and from the very beginning of her acquaintance with Anatol she was conscious of the need of guidance. She felt herself slipping, and she tried with a certain tremulous horror to hold back, amazed at herself, fearing yet longing to meet the man whose very presence seemed to be the embodiment of ardent love. For Anatol was handsome, and adept in amours, and he pursued his campaign with passionate energy. Natalie wondered helplessly what had become of her love for Andrei. She shrank from contemplation of her fickleness, and yet she had to acknowledge that the former love was fled and that its place had been taken by a headstrong passion for Anatol. Her affectionate nature, pure as sunlight, had been turned irresistibly toward the presence of love, and away from the absence of it. The tangible object of affection displaced the intangible. It was not for her to know that Anatol already had a wife, a Polish girl whom he had been compelled to marry by an indignant father.
Anatol proposed elopement, and gave plausible excuses for secrecy. He would take her to a distant province and marry her there, and to that end he made arrangements with an unfrocked priest for a worthless ceremony. Natalie wrote a brief note to Andrei to inform him that she availed herself of the freedom allowed by their agreement, and made ready to slip from the house where she was visiting by a back door late at night, and join her lover. Anatol was at hand at the appointed hour with a troika (a three-horse covered sleigh); but the little maid's agitation had been observed by an anxious relative, who had discovered a letter from Anatol that betrayed the whole affair. It was accordingly frustrated, and Natalie was kept virtually a prisoner, protesting against interference with her wishes, and scorning to credit any aspersion on Anatol's character. It was not until Pierre, who had known her from childhood, assured her that Anatol was already married that she knew she had been deceived. To her Pierre was, as he was to number-less others, a paragon of goodness; she trusted him as a child trusts a good-natured uncle who always brings sweetmeats to his favorites. Pierre told her the truth, and she looked at him so piteously that her misery smote him to the heart.
He left her to find Anatol. For hours he drove to one rendezvous after another, and discovered him at last in his own house, where Elena was presiding over a brilliant function. Pierre stalked through the fashionable crowd as if he were a police officer rather than the master of the house, and brusquely told Anatol to follow him. Elena contrived to warn her husband not to spoil her event with a sensational scene, but Pierre paid no attention to her. The two men went into the library, where Pierre caught Anatol by the throat and shook him back and forth much as a terrier shakes a rat. At last he let the chattering, blubbering scoundrel drop, and then he seized a great paper-weight and held it over Anatol's head. "I don't know what restrains me from killing you!" he said.
Then he laid the paper-weight slowly down, demanded every scrap of writing that Natalie had sent to Anatol, commanded him never to speak of the episode, and finished by giving the blackguard abundant money with which to take himself away from Moscow. Anatol was sufficiently impressed to leave the city at once.
It happened that Prince Andrei came to Moscow just after Anatol's departure. Pierre met him and found the Prince re-strained, almost cold in his demeanor. He rebuffed Pierre's proffers of sympathy, and affected indifference in such frosty tones as showed how terribly he had been hurt. Pierre under-stood, and sadly complied with the one request the Prince made him: to convey to Natalie all the letters she had written to him. Natalie could hardly keep on her feet when Pierre called on this errand, for she had been shaken physically as well as morally by the episode with Anatol. She begged Pierre to say to Andrei that all she craved now was his forgiveness. Pierre spoke kindly to her; his heart warmed with compassion; he assured her that if ever she needed a friend's advice, or aid of any kind, that he could give, she should apply to him.
"Do not speak to me so—I do not deserve it," she sobbed. "My life is nothing but a ruin."
"Ruin!" he repeated. "If I were not myself, but the best man in the world, and if I were free, I would this very instant, on my knees, sue for your hand and your love."
Natalie, for the first time in many days, shed tears of gratitude; and, giving Pierre one look, she fled from the room.
Thus began a wonderful influence upon Pierre's inner life. He was consciously in love; more, he knew that this was a love that could expect and ask nothing for its own sake, that must be content with the mere fact of love, and that must aim only for the complete restoration of its object to moral health, and, if circumstances would only so shape themselves, to happiness in union with another, Andrei, his best friend.
These events occurred just previously to Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The national spirit was tremendously aroused, and under all the circumstances it was natural that Andrei should return to the military service. Pierre never had been in the army, but he took his proper part in the defense of his country in his capacity as a rich man. When the nobles and merchants of Moscow were assembled to confer on the state of the country, Pierre agreed to supply and equip an entire regiment, a prodigality of patriotism that few others in the empire could emulate. The work involved in this, however, was done by agents, and his own time was almost unoccupied. He called on Natalie frequently, and he was the only person she was always glad to see. She attributed his occasional diffidence to delicacy of feeling, and his uniform kindness contributed more than any-thing, except possibly time itself, to her restoration to health. Not once did Pierre breathe a word of love. That was his secret, too sacred to be entrusted even to her.
When he was by himself Pierre fell into a strange manner of calculation, convinced that some kind of catastrophe was impending, and wondering what would be his personal relation to it. One of his Masonic brothers had called his attention to the prophecy concerning Napoleon that was derived from the revelation of St. John. In the Apocalypse it is written: "He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is a number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty and six." The letters of the French alphabet, disposed in accordance with Hebrew enumeration, give the first nine letters the value of units, and the rest that of tens. For example, E is 5, K is 10, S is go, and so to Z, which is 16o. If the words l'Empereur Napoléon are arranged in this numerical cipher, the sum of the letters amounts to six hundred and sixty-six. There-fore Napoleon was the beast mentioned in the Apocalypse. A further divination after the same method showed that Napoleon's power would last until 1812.
Pierre was amazed at all this, and spent many hours working over the cipher to discover what more it might reveal to him. After spelling his own name in the various forms permissible to the Russians of his day, and making it as similar as he could to the French form, he found that the letters of l'Russe Besuhof, converted into numerals, indicated six hundred and sixty-six. Precisely what this implied he could not discern at first, but eventually he became obsessed with the idea that his destiny was linked to that of Napoleon, and that it was his mission to destroy the beast. All Pierre's conduct from that time until the burning of Moscow was colored and directed by this.
He rode out to Borodino when the Russians held that place and contiguous villages against Napoleon, and remained on the battlefield all day long. By virtue of his rank he could go where ordinary civilians would have been forbidden; as it was, officers repeatedly urged him to retire, for he was not only in danger but in the way. Nothing persuaded him to leave. He spent most of his time on a hilltop where there was a battery in action, where he saw hundreds of men fall, where he was himself spattered with dirt thrown up by bursting shells; and whenever he found himself in the way of the soldiers, he smiled good-humoredly and apologized, and withdrew for a moment to one side, only to return again the next moment. He was in the thick of the confusion when the French charged the battery and began to turn its guns on the Russians; he was there still when the Russians recaptured the position and drove off the enemy with fearful slaughter. Through it all he remained an interested spectator, and that fortune spared him the slightest injury intrenched him more firmly in the conviction that his time for action was yet to come.
So, when all Russians who could command the means to go, deserted Moscow, Pierre remained in the city. He secreted himself in a mean house, put on a peasant's costume, and bought both a pistol and a dagger. The Rostofs were among the last to leave the city, and it happened that Pierre saw the train of their carriages when he was on his way to buy the weapons, and that Natalie recognized him. He walked along beside her carriage for a moment. She asked him what was the matter, and whether he was going to stay in the city. Yes, he told her in answer to the second question, and stammered unintelligibly when she pressed the first. The train of vehicles moved on, and neither Pierre nor Natalie knew that in one of the several that Count Rostof had given to the use of wounded soldiers lay Prince Andrei, dying of a wound received at Borodino.
Moscow was burning on September i3, 1812, and on the morning of that day Pierre set forth on his mission of destructlon. The beast was enthroned in the city; but just where to look for him Plerre knew not. He wandered through the streets; which were thick with smoke, fearing that his resolution would weaken, considering that he had no skill in using the pistol, and thinking it would be better to trust to his enormous strength and the dagger, and yet reflecting that a previous attempt to stab Napoleon had lamentably failed. He came upon many poor families dispossessed by the flames. There were scenes of distress at every hand sufficient to arouse patriotic desperation if his spirit should flag. A woman whom he saw was sobbing be-cause, in her hurried fllght from home, her baby had been left behind. She was surrounded by other of her children; and her frenzied husband could not be induced to go back for the missing little one. Pierre undertook the search. Guided by an elder sister of the baby, he came to the house. This was in flames, and French soldiers were busy in the neighborhood pillaging. Pierre dashed in at a rear door, found the infant asleep; and came forth with it in his arms, both unhurt. By then the sister had disappeared, and he carried the baby back to the place where lie had seen the mother. She and the rest of the family were gone, and nobody could tell where. Others had taken their places, women sitting on the wrecks of thelr house-hold goods, thieves, looting soldiers, idlers crowding around them. In the thick of the crowd was an Armenian famlly, an bid man and woman, and a young woman, evidently their daughter, all richly dressed. Pierre saw a barefooted French soldier pull off the old man's boots, and another wrest his cost from him.
Despairing of findlng the parents of the baby; he gave the child to a peasant with hurried instructions to look for them, and turned toward the Armenians. just as he did so it soldier snatched the necklace from the young woman's throat. Plerre struck the soldier with his fist, laying him flat. The other soldiers drew their sabers and went to their comrade's relief. Then Pierre, disdaining or forgettipg his pistol and dagger, laid about him with his fists and knocked the astounded Frenchmen this way and that before their cutlasses could be made effective, until the fracas was interrupted suddenly by the appearance of a file of Uhlans.
It was not so much discretion that induced Pierre then to desist from his mad fighting as the characteristic subsidence of his passion. He surrendered without resistance and was locked up with many, others made prisoners on that day and charged by the French with incendiarism. Pierre would not give his name, would not admit that he understood French; but the latter fact was accidentally revealed, for he had no skill in deceit, and this, together with his native manner, and the evident be-lief of his fellow-prisoners that he was a noble, caused the captain who examined the suspects to doubt the advisability of treating Pierre like the common riffraff in the dungeon. The French maintained that the burning of Moscow was the work of the Russians themselves, who sought thus to make the city useless to its captors; and the edict had gone forth that an ex-ample must be made of enough natives to deter the rest from causing further conflagrations. After a night in the dungeon, Pierre was summoned forth with five others and examined by an officer. He still refused to give his name, but he denied that he was guilty of incendiarism, The officer was puzzled, and at length he gave an order in accordance with which the six prisoners were marched to an open space where a great crowd had assembled in view of a freshly made pit. Two of the prisoners were told off and stationed at the edge of the pit with their eyes blindfolded. Then a file of soldiers drew up and shot them. As soon as their bodies had tumbled into the pit, two others were told off and executed in the same way.
Pierre breathed heavily. There was battle in his heart, but he asked himself who was responsible for all this. And he read the same question in the faces of all around him, Frenchmen as well as Russians. Then came the last "example." To his stupefaction, Pierre was not led to the pit. The doubt in the examining officer's mind had saved him, though why he knew not. He saw his one remaining comrade struggle with the soldiers who blindfolded him, heard his shrieks suddenly cease as the fatal moment came; and after the deafening report from the firing-squad, he saw the unfortunate prisoner writhing on the ground, saw the soldiers dump his still living body into the pit and begin to cover it with earth. Then Pierre was marched back to the dungeon.
With several score others he was kept confined until the French evacuated Moscow. After that came the toilsome march westward. Some of the prisoners escaped; but most of those who did so were recaptured and shot. Some perished from illness and exposure on the way. There was one, a common soldier, whose calm philosophy upheld him in spite of a dreadful disease, to whom Pierre became warmly attached, in spite of the fact that the poor fellow's ailment made him such a distressing object that often Pierre could not bring himself to go near him. This man became such a burden to the guards that one day they shot him rather than carry him farther. The best food the prisoners had was horse-flesh.
Napoleon's disastrous retreat, coupled with the waiting policy of the Russian general, Kutuzof, led to the organization of many bands of guerrillas that harassed the French column and took many detachments captive. Such a band fell early one morning on the force engaged in escorting the prisoners and a baggage-train, and killed or captured the entire number. So Pierre was released, and the commander of the guerrillas on that occasion was his former adversary, Dolokhof.
Pierre's huge frame had come to the point of exhaustion by the privations of captivity; but he managed to reach one of his country estates, where he lay ill for three months. When he recovered he learned that Elena was dead. He heard also how Natalie had discovered the presence of Andrei among the prisoners succored by her father, and how she had gone to her former lover with all her former love and nursed him through the lingering agonies caused by his wounds. Andrei knew her when first she appeared at his bedside. He had been dreaming of her, and she was the one person he wished to see. Theirs was a perfect reconciliation, and after the Prince's death Natalie returned to Moscow to live with Andrei's sister.
One day long afterward, when Pierre had recovered his health, he learned that Andrei's sister was in Moscow, and he called upon her. He was wholly unprepared for seeing Natalie, and his confusion told at once the story of his love. He was like a boy experiencing his first passion—all humility, diffidence, worship; it actually required frank management on the part of Andrei's sister to prevent him from running away, so over-mastering was his love and so unworthy did he regard himself. Happily, the deft management was there, and when, after the lapse of proper time, Pierre made open confession, he found Natalie a willing captive. She became his wife and from that time dominated the big man, much to the amusement of their friends, but entirely to the satisfaction of Pierre.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
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